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Welcome To Latest IND >> Fastest World News NEW DELHI: Under the BJP-led NDA government, significant revisions to NCERT textbooks have stirred controversy time...
HomeBusiness'Investing in India's future with modular reactors - An indicator ofsustainable energy...

‘Investing in India’s future with modular reactors – An indicator ofsustainable energy development’: Kaustubh Laturkar

Currently working as a chemical engineer at Michigan State University, Kaustubh Laturkar is an accomplished chemical engineer with an illustrious career spanning a decade. His educational background includes a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Florida and a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Panjab University in India.

An exemplary professional, his expertise extends to topics like nuclear science, oil and gas, and environmental sustainability.
The below conversation with him focuses on advances in

nuclear reactor technology

and its potential impact on India’s future.
Q. Is nuclear power likely to play a significant role in India’s energy mix over the next decade?
Kaustubh (K): Between 2019 and 2050, India’s energy consumption is predicted to nearly double. The strong growth will thus lead to the country’s consumption of approximately 14% of global energy by 2050. Indian energy production still largely depends on coal, but the country is adapting to alternative energy sources, which will also contribute to its energy production in the future. As an alternative energy source,

nuclear energy

is being developed in order to meet the country’s energy needs. There are currently 22 operational nuclear reactors with 6780 MW of installed capacity in India with eight more reactors (6800 MW) in various stages of completion. For India’s energy needs, nuclear energy might be a viable solution with its low carbon footprint and ability to generate large amounts of electricity without releasing greenhouse gases. It will reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels while assisting it in becoming energy independent. India has a very promising future when it comes to nuclear power.

Q. What technological advancements do you foresee in the design and operation of nuclear reactors that could be beneficial particularly at a much smaller scale?
K: It is true that several nuclear reactors are currently under development in India, but all of them are large-scale reactors. However, there are places where power is required, but it will take a considerable amount of time to get approval, install, and operate the plants to generate power.

Small modular reactors

(SMRs) and very small modular reactors (vSMRs) are novel reactor designs that operate on a smaller scale and serve a niche market for nuclear energy production. The reactors are designed using modular technology resulting in economies of scale and shorter construction periods. Despite being underexplored in India, these technologies are being evaluated by companies around the world as innovative solutions for addressing power requirements which could lead to a revolution in power generation on a modest scale.
Q. Could you elaborate on the new types of reactors and their advantages over conventional nuclear reactors?
K: SMRs and vSMRs can address a number of issues associated with conventional nuclear reactors. SMRs are reactors that generate 300 MW(e) or less, while vSMRs are designed to produce electrical power typically up to 20 MW(e). The purpose of both classes of reactors is to add incremental capacity to meet energy demand. The dimensions of these reactors enable modularisation as well as efficient assembly in production facilities. Compared to conventional nuclear reactors, these reactors require much less upfront investment and construction, making them an increasingly popular alternative. In addition to providing carbon-free energy, they also address safety concerns with advanced protective mechanisms. In addition to producing power, these reactors can generate heat that can be used in other energy-intensive applications, such as centralised community heating or purification of ocean water. This technology has also attracted significant funding from governments and private players around the world, leading to innovative designs at the forefront of technology.
Q. What are the potential challenges in the establishment of these nuclear power reactor programs in India?
K: It is still early days for SMR and vSMR technology, and most designs have not yet been tested or approved. It will take time for these reactors to be incorporated into India’s nuclear energy production. Regulatory compliance and implementation schedules are the main concerns. In spite of being based on decades of traditional nuclear reactor research and development, this technology presents a unique set of challenges. These reactors will require significant upfront design expenses, so government funding is essential. Even though these reactors are less expensive to build than conventional nuclear reactors, electricity generation costs remain high compared to traditional or renewable energy sources. To develop license and regulation protocols, significant research will need to be conducted into their design safety parameters. While their integration with the existing infrastructure will take some time, India must take advantage of the opportunity to address factors that have contributed to its lag in nuclear energy growth by exploring these novel concepts.
Q. What are your thoughts about India’s nuclear future in terms of these novel reactor technologies for fostering sustainable and secure nuclear energy?
K: It is evident that these small nuclear reactors are still in the early stages of development. The same scrutiny will be applied to them as to conventional reactors despite their smaller size. But these reactors are inherently stable in design, and are equipped with a variety of sophisticated engineering and safety features. It is possible to operate these in conjunction with other advanced technologies to provide sustainable, low-carbon energy sources in the future. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and capitalise on global SMR supply cooperation, the Indian government has sought to encourage these novel reactor technologies. Even at the recently concluded G20 summit in September 2023, India and the United States collaborated on many energy and sustainable initiatives, including the further development of SMR technology. For the Indian subcontinent to meet its energy needs more efficiently, the government must invest resources and focus on the advancement of this technology. Hopefully, in the future, government amendments will allow for some flexibility for private investment, international trade, and new business development. A smart nuclear policy can enable India to reach net zero energy levels by 2070 and achieve a carbon-neutral future with the right support and assistance.
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