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Centre considers greater participation of private firms to develop nuclear plants

India currently allows private technology and construction in nuclear plants, but operations and fuel management are controlled by government companies.
Last Updated : 02 August 2023, 17:34 IST

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India’s state-controlled nuclear power industry is considering allowing greater participation of private firms, with an aim to developing small modular reactors to help decarbonize industry.

The country is reviewing its six-decade-old atomic energy law to allow more involvement from non-state companies, Union Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh said Wednesday in a written reply to questions in Parliament. India currently allows private technology and construction in nuclear plants, but operations and fuel management are controlled by government companies.

Discussion about modular reactors, or SMRs, has gained momentum in recent months, as the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases seeks clean sources of power to reduce its dependence on coal, which currently produces about 70 per cent of India’s electricity. The nation has committed to have half its power generation capacity run on clean sources by the end of this decade, a key milestone in its goal to become net zero by 2070.

Detailed technical talks are underway to assess the feasibility of the SMR technology, and the government is exploring collaboration with other countries for jointly developing such reactors, Singh said.

State-run NTPC Ltd., the country’s largest power producer, has emerged as a nuclear champion, betting big on SMRs as they’re quicker to build and easier to adjust to grid requirements. They can also serve as an off-grid power solution in remote locations.

Still, the technology is at a nascent stage. There were two reactors operating at a floating nuclear project in Russia and two others in China as of last year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

India currently has about 7.5 gigawatts of atomic power capacity, all operated by state-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. The nation aims to expand it to almost 22.5 gigawatts by 2031, Singh said. The increase will primarily happen through large-sized plants, Singh said.

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Published 02 August 2023, 17:24 IST

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