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Tripartite agreement signed for hydrogen energy development in Russia  

Russia’s government, the state-run atomic energy corporation Rosatom and the Russian energy giant Gazprom have signed an agreement last month on cooperation in the development of hydrogen energy.  

As per the agreement, Rosatom will put into action a program to develop, by 2030, technologies for producing and processing hydrogen, organise serial production of electrolysis installations with various capacities, and carry out preparations for the construction of a nuclear power plant with high temperature gas-cooled reactors. 

Russia has been into clean hydrogen technology for some years. In 2020, the government launched a Hydrogen Energy Action Plan, and in 2021 it approved the Plan of Action to Develop Hydrogen Energy in the country. 

According to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, “Russia has a wealth of expertise in carrying out initiatives for the advancement of hydrogen energy and the development of portable, potent, contemporary energy storage systems. In addition to its current usage in oil refining, hydrogen will also have uses in energy and transportation in the future.” 

Rosatom plays a leading role in the development of clean hydrogen energy in Russia. It has an R&D program to develop technology for the storage, transportation and application of low-carbon hydrogen in different sectors. It is also in the process of launching a number of pilot hydrogen projects, including production of clean hydrogen for industry use, introduction of hydrogen-­powered vehicles and hydrogen fuelling stations for urban transport systems, and large-­scale production of hydrogen by means of electrolysis using electricity from nuclear power plants or by a steam methane reforming process combined with carbon capture systems. 

Green, or clean, hydrogen is that produced by a process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen – known as electrolysis – using power generated from renewable sources or nuclear energy to achieve this. Besides, steam and oxygen can also be used to convert biomass into green hydrogen.   

Currently, only around one percent of global hydrogen production is low-carbon, which means that most of the hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, releasing carbon into the atmosphere. However, technologies like carbon capture use and storage are now available to reduce the carbon footprint of hydrogen produced this way and make low-carbon hydrogen. 

One of the projects in an active development phase is the Sakhalin Hydrogen Cluster being developed in the Russian Far East at Sakhalin, which is the country’s largest island, separated from mainland Asia by the Strait of Tartary and from Japan’s Hokkaido Island by the La Pérouse Strait. 

Last March, the Russian government approved an extensive decarbonisation program for Sakhalin. With emission quotas and environmental initiatives, the island plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025. The Sakhalin experiment was launched on September 1, 2022.  Rosatom has signed a wide-ranging cooperation agreement with Gazprom and the Sakhalin authorities to produce and distribute hydrogen on the island, aimed at switching consumers to its use as fuel. 

To aid in decarbonisation of the local economy, the Sakhalin Hydrogen Cluster will comprise hydrogen technology projects across industry sectors such as transport, manufacturing, utilities, and power production, a competence center, as well as an export-­oriented low-carbon hydrogen factory.  

Hydrogen production is expected to begin at this planned factory in 2025 with 35,000 tons and increase to 100,000 tons by 2030. The factory will use the steam methane reforming process and carbon capture systems to produce hydrogen. It will be supplied to Sakhalin­based companies and countries in the Asia-Pacific region pursuing a carbon-free hydrogen economy to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Rosatom subsidiary Rusatom Overseas together with French multinational Air Liquide have completed a feasibility study for the construction of the hydrogen production complex, preparatory to the formulation of the front-end engineering design.  

According to the Governor of the Sakhalin Region, Valery Limarenko, “the project for the production of low-carbon hydrogen on Sakhalin Island by steam reforming of methane using environmentally friendly technologies for capturing CO2 emissions is developing successfully. This is a very important project for our region.”  

“We see that many companies from countries of the Asia-Pacific region pay great attention to the development of the hydrogen economy and are interested in importing low-carbon hydrogen from Russia. We are already negotiating with potential partners in Japan and the Republic of Korea to launch an international supply chain for low-carbon hydrogen from 2025,” Rusatom Overseas President Evgeny Pakermanov had earlier said in a statement.   

Rosatom is considering a number of partnership options for the project. A memorandum to this effect has been signed between Rusatom Overseas and China Energy Engineering Corporation at the Eastern Economic Forum held in September 2022.  

“We plan to export liquefied hydrogen to China by sea using container tanks. China has its own large-­scale program for hydrogen production and application. Our partnership is another step towards achieving hydrogen economy goals set by our countries,” Pakermanov said. 

Another ambitious project within the Sakhalin Hydrogen Cluster is a railway service that will use trains running on hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen-­powered trains have a minimal impact on the environment. The pilot series will consist of seven — five two-car and two three-car — trains. Each train is estimated to consume 265 tons of hydrogen per annum at an average daily run of about 300 km. The first train is planned to be launched in 2025. This is a joint project of Rosatom, the Sakhalin government, Russian Railways, and Russia’s leading rolling stock manufacturer, Transmashholding. 

In addition to trains, Russia plans to launch other modes of hydrogen-powered transport, including buses, cars, as well as municipal and commercial vehicles, the fuelling infrastructure for which will also be developed by Rosatom, the company said. 

Several countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan and South Korea, have been proactive in the area of hydrogen policy making. In 2017, Japan formulated its Basic Hydrogen Strategy which sets out the country’s action plan till 2030, including the establishment of an international supply chain. South Korea is operating hydrogen projects and hydrogen fuel cell production units under its Hydrogen Economy Development and Safe Management of Hydrogen Act, 2020. 

Last month, the Indian government launched its National Green Hydrogen Mission designed to substantially increase the use of the clean fuel in its energy mix, and for the development of the country’s green hydrogen ecosystem. The policy, approved by the cabinet with an outlay of Rs.19,744 crore (over $2.4 billion), aims to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production and fuel cell technology. The mission targets setting up green hydrogen capacity of at least 5 million tons per annum by 2030, alongside adding an associated renewable energy capacity of 125 gigawatts (GW). 

Successful trial assembly of reactor vessel for India’s Kudankulam plant unit 5  

A trial assembly of the internals of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) designated for unit 5 of India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KNPP) was successfully undertaken in late January 2023 at the Volgodonsk (Russia) plant of Atommash, which is a subsidiary of Atomenergomash, the machine building division of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. 

A Rosatom statement said the check assembly was carried out using an underground caisson, or hollow in the concrete floor, that simulates the position the vessel will hold in the real power plant. First, specialists using a crane with a lifting capacity of 600 tonnes installed the 11-metre VVER-1000 RPV in its design position. Next, one by one, a 10-metre core barrel weighing 73 tonnes, a core baffle of 38 tonnes, and a block of protective pipes weighing 68 tonnes were lowered inside. The nuclear reactor was then closed with a standard lid. The total weight of the assembled product was 603 tonnes. 

“During the assembly, the staff installed keys and fasteners on the Reactor Vessel and fixed the centering device of the reactor cover. During check assembly, the items exactly repeat their design position,” the statement said. 

A control assembly, in which the products completely replicate their design position, significantly reduces the installation time and simplifies the process of installation of the reactor at the NPP construction site, the statement added.  

The reactor pressure vessel is the heart of a nuclear power plant. It contains the nuclear fuel assemblies which produce heat and forms part of the primary coolant circuit. It also contains provisions for sensors and moving parts such as control rods. 

Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the KNPP, India’s largest nuclear plant operated by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Its units 1 and 2, of 1,000 MW capacity each, started commercial operations in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Rosatom is similarly collaborating in the construction of four more VVER-1000 type units at Kudankulam – 3, 4, 5 and 6 – of 1,000 MW capacity each.  Kudankulam is located in Tamil Nadu state in south India.    

In a separate statement, Rosatom said that Atommash has successfully tested another key component of the primary circuit of KNPP’s unit 5 – its pressuriser, which helps maintain the appropriate pressure of the coolant water used to transfer heat from fuel assemblies in the reactor pressure vessel to the steam generators. “The pressure in the tank was increased to the maximum allowable value for this equipment, which is 24.7 MPa (Megapascals),” the statement said, adding that the equipment is being prepared for shipment. 

Developments in 2022 in the nuclear field in Bangladesh  

January 25 is the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Russia. On this day 51 years ago, a newly independent Bangladesh established diplomatic ties with the erstwhile Soviet Union. The anniversary provides an occasion to take stock of the progress made during last year in the ambitious project of bilateral cooperation – Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) coming up at Rooppur located 160 km from the capital Dhaka.  

The Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the project to build two Generation III+ VVER-1200 reactor units of 1,200 MW capacity each at Rooppur located on the eastern bank of the river Padma. 

Welding operations on the primary coolant pipes of the first unit were completed in late February 2022. The welds — 28 pipe joints altogether — are subject to particularly strict requirements as the operational safety of the reactor depends heavily on the quality of welding. These are the pipes that serve to deliver hot water from the reactor to the steam generators. 

In late March, four steam headers were installed in their permanent position at unit 1. In early April, a stator of the turbine generator was put in place in the turbine hall. A turbine generator consists of two main parts, a rotor and a stator. A powerful accumulator of mechanical energy, the rotor rotates inside the stationary stator. This is the mechanism that converts mechanical energy into electric power. 

The main concrete works of the auxiliary reactor building for unit 1 were also completed by April, eight months ahead of schedule. The construction time of the auxiliary reactor building, which is a part of the nuclear island and is designed to house process instrumentation and control devices, was reduced by 241 days aided by the optimisation of logistic processes, while workplaces were timely supplied with the required resources like materials and tools. A Rosatom statement had said the average volume of concrete laid by specialists of the Rosatom subsidiary NIKIMT-Atomstroy was at the rate of 1,600 cubic meters per month, instead of the scheduled 1,000 cubic meters. 

In June, metal structures for the inner containment dome of the second unit were installed, taking its height to over 60 meters. The inner containment is one of the main components of an NPP’s safety system. It not only protects the reactor compartment, but also supports the polar crane used to service the nuclear reactor. 

Concreting of the fifth tier of the inner containment of the reactor building at unit 2 had been completed significantly ahead of schedule on December 24, 2021. Thus, 2022 saw the completion of construction of the cylindrical part of the inner containment that is one of the main components of the NPP reactor safety system which prevents release of radioactive substances into the environment. The dome of the power unit is installed on the inner containment.  

Also in June, an emergency core cooling system (ECCS) was installed in the reactor building of the second unit. Work began in August to concrete the internal containment dome of the reactor building. The installation of travelling cranes was completed in the turbine building in September. The cranes will be used for erection and installation operations during the construction phase, and for maintenance and repairs during the operation of the nuclear power plant. 

The installation of the reactor pressure vessel for the second unit was completed in October. The installation ceremony was attended by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev. In late October, steam generators were installed for unit 2. 

Immediately following the installation of the unit 2 reactor pressure vessel, a modern training centre, designed to train operating personnel of various categories, was inaugurated at the Rooppur NPP site. Bangladeshi citizens are undergoing training at the centre in specialised classes and production shops with the most up-to-date equipment. Rosatom has developed all the necessary teaching and learning programmes that will enable the Bangladeshi operator to independently provide training for its personnel.  

In late November, workers finished the installation of steel structures for the external containment dome at the reactor building of unit 1. The height of the containment reached 63.9 meters, according to Rosatom.  

The installation of the reactor pressure vessel for unit 1 was completed in November 2021. Both the power units will be equipped with active as well as passive safety systems, including molten core catchers. 

As the year moved towards its end, flushing of systems with the open reactor commenced at unit 1 in early December, as part of pre-commissioning operations. This is followed by a special post-installation cleaning. At this stage, chemically dematerialised water is supplied to the reactor vessel through the connection pipeline and primary circuit pipelines to remove impurities left after the installation of the equipment and the pipelines. 

“Flushing of active and passive safety systems with the open reactor is one of the most important pre-commissioning operations. This is the first of a whole series of inspections of equipment and process systems,” according to the Rooppur NPP Construction Project Director Alexey Deriy. 

The flushing helps to ensure that all the equipment has been installed correctly and is ready for operation. Besides, it checks the operability of pump units of the safety systems and normal operation systems. 

Among other developments during 2022, Bangladesh awarded a contract to Rosatom to supply gamma irradiation equipment for treating food and medical products, as well as for research purposes. The contract, awarded in May, entails replacing the equipment of the existing gamma irradiation facility in Bangladesh.   

Following an international open tender, the contract was won by the Scientific Research Institute of Technical Physics and Automation, which is an arm of Rosatom subsidiary Rusatom Healthcare.  

The international tender, organised jointly by the Institute of Radiation and Polymer Technology and the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, also attracted bids by companies from China and Germany. Rosatom said the Rusatom Healthcare bid, supported by the Regional Center Rosatom South Asia, satisfied all the customer’s technical and commercial requirements.  

Rosatom will perform all the work, including design, manufacture, supply, installation supervision, testing, and commissioning of gamma installation equipment. Co-60 (cobalt-60) radioactive isotopes will be supplied by Rosatom subsidiary Isotope JSC. The result of the work will be an upgraded gamma installation with a nominal activity of 400 kCi (kilocurie). 

Indian scientists find first evidence of solitary waves in Mars magnetosphere 

A team of Indian scientists have discovered the first evidence of solitary waves in the Martian magnetosphere — the space around a planet that is controlled by its magnetic field. 

The solitary waves are mainly distinct electric field fluctuations in Mars’ magnetosphere, which are responsible for controlling particle energisation, plasma loss, its transport, and other processes through wave-particle interactions. 

India’s Ministry of Science and Technology, which reported the finding earlier this month, said the study is crucial for researchers to get new insights into the behaviour of the Martian magnetosphere and could help in the understanding of such phenomena in other planetary magnetic fields. 

The Earth is a giant magnet, and its magnetic field generated by the motion of molten iron in its core protects us from high-speed charged particles that are continuously emitted from the Sun in the form of solar wind. Unlike Earth, the planet Mars does not have any intrinsic magnetic field, which allows the high-speed solar wind to interact directly with the Mars atmosphere, like an obstacle in flow.  

If the Earth lacked a magnetic field, the solar wind would have penetrated all the way to the top of the atmosphere and would then have flowed around the Earth, the way water flows around a rock in a stream. Something like that in fact happens, for instance, at the planet Venus, which seems to have no magnetic field of its own. At Earth, however, a strong magnetic field confronts the solar wind, forming a much bigger obstacle than the Earth itself. Because the solar wind is a plasma, it is forced to detour around the Earth’s field, creating a large, shielded cavity around the Earth–the magnetosphere.    

Scientists are of the opinion that even in a weak and thin magnetosphere like that of Mars, one can observe frequent occurrences of solitary waves. However, despite several missions to Mars, the presence of solitary waves in the Martian magnetosphere was never detected earlier. 
Now for the first time, a research team from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, has identified and reported the solitary waves in the Martian magnetosphere with the help of high-resolution electric field data recorded by the Langmuir Probe and Waves instrument on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft of NASA.  

The magnetosphere is weak but highly dynamic and formed due to the direct interaction of solar winds with the Martian atmosphere. There is a suggestion from the study that there is an active process taking place in the planet’s magnetic environment. 

The study revealed the solitary waves to be distinct electric field fluctuations, which lasted for about 0.2-1.7 milliseconds and were predominant during dawn or between afternoon to dusk at an altitude of 1,000-3,500 km from Mars’ surface. The researchers also found that the spatial extent of these structures is very small — 30 to 330 metres. 

The Science and Technology Ministry said further investigation is needed to determine exactly why these waves are dominant during a fixed time of the day. 

As these solitary waves are known to be responsible for plasma energisation and its transport in the Earth’s magnetosphere, the research team is further exploring their role in the particle dynamics in the Martian magnetosphere and to understand whether such waves play any role in the loss of atmospheric ions on Mars. 

The MAVEN spacecraft found solar radiation striking Mars’ unprotected atmosphere directly, knocking atoms off into space. When solar wind hits the weak Martian magnetosphere, it imparts energy to atmospheric atoms and molecules, giving them enough velocity to escape the planet’s gravity. 

Japan to release treated Fukushima wastewater into sea, IAEA monitoring safety aspects

The Japanese government said last week it will release more than a million tonnes of wastewater into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP) that was crippled by a tsunami in 2011.  

Under the plan, the wastewater, which contains hard-to-remove radioactive tritium because of being used to cool down melted nuclear fuel at the damaged plant, will be discharged through an underwater tunnel into the Pacific Ocean after being treated. 

The schedule of the plan was confirmed during a meeting of Japan’s cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s office. 

“We expect the timing of the release would be sometime during this spring or summer,” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told mediapersons following the cabinet meeting, adding that the government will wait for a comprehensive report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before the release. 

The operator of the Fukushima NPP, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has said that after treatment the levels of most radioactive particles meet the national standards. Japan says that the release of the wastewater is safe as it is processed to remove almost all radioactive elements and will be greatly diluted. 

The contaminated water produced daily and being stored in tanks at the plant is expected to soon reach capacity, and the lengthy process of dumping the radioactive water into the ocean is projected to take several decades. 

According to the IAEA, tritium is very difficult to remove from water and is only harmful to humans in large doses. 

The IAEA says the Japanese plan is safe and that the release is similar to the disposal of wastewater at other plants around the world. Some of Japan’s neighbouring countries have, however, voiced concern.  

“Releasing into the ocean is done elsewhere. It’s not something new. There is no scandal here”, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in 2021. 

The IAEA said last month that its Task Force established to review the safety of Japan’s plans to discharge the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)-treated water stored at the Fukushima NPP into the sea has released its third report on December 29, 2022.  

The new report sets out how the IAEA is conducting its own independent checks of key data related to the monitoring of the safety of the treated water before, during and after its discharge. 

“This corroboration work is one of the three components in the Task Force’s review of Japan’s plans to ensure they are in line with IAEA Safety Standards. The review also comprises assessments of the technical plans and of regulatory activities and processes related to the water discharge”, an IAEA release said.  

The new report summarizes the main elements of the IAEA’s corroboration activities and explains the methodologies to be used. It also provides an update on the progress made to date in this work, and what future activities can be anticipated. 

Fukushima NPP operator Tokyo Electric Power Company is required to determine the characteristics and activity of the ALPS treated water to be discharged into the sea. This characterization is used as a basis to establish and implement effective monitoring programmes to ensure that any public exposure due to the discharges is adequately considered, IAEA said.  

The report released on December 29, 2022 focuses on how the IAEA will conduct its own independent checks of the radiological contents of the water stored in the tanks and how it will analyse environmental samples (for example, seawater and fish) from the surrounding environment. 

This corroboration of data will be conducted using interlaboratory comparisons involving both IAEA laboratories as well as independent third-party laboratories from France, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United States – all of which are members of the network of Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity (ALMERA). 

Additionally, the report covers how the IAEA will independently review Japanese capabilities for measuring the radiation exposure of workers at the nuclear power plant. 

“This independent work will build confidence in the accuracy of data provided by TEPCO and the Japanese authorities and will give another layer of assurance that they are adhering to relevant IAEA Safety Standards,” IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety Director and Chair of the Task Force, Gustavo Caruso, said in a statement.  

The report includes details on the first collections of treated water samples from the tanks, as well as environmental samples, taken in 2022.  

The initial results of the IAEA’s corroboration activities will be made available in 2023 before the planned discharges of the ALPS treated water begin, the statement said. 

Subsequent results will be included in future reports that will provide the details of the technical evaluation as well as information for the public on how to read and interpret the data, it added.

India unveils green hydrogen production policy  

The Indian government has launched the National Green Hydrogen Mission designed to substantially increase the use of the clean fuel in its energy mix, and for the development of the country’s green hydrogen ecosystem. 

The policy, approved by the cabinet last week with an outlay of Rs. 19,744 crore (over $2.4 billion) aims to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production and fuel cell technology. 

The mission targets setting up green hydrogen capacity of at least 5 million tonnes per annum by 2030, alongside adding an associated renewable energy capacity of 125 gigawatts (GW). 
The targeted production capacity is expected to generate total investments of over Rs. 8 lakh crore (around $98 billion) and result in the creation of over 600,000 jobs.  

India’s Power and Renewable Energy Minister R.K. Singh said that the mission will make India a leading producer and supplier of green hydrogen. In a meeting with stakeholders, he said that the mission would result in attractive investment and business opportunities for the industry and contribute significantly to India’s efforts towards decarbonisation and energy independence. It would also create employment opportunities and lead to economic development. 

The green hydrogen mission has also set a target of reducing CO2 emissions by about 50 million tonnes per annum by 2030.   
As per the country’s commitments towards clean energy transition, India has committed to achieving net zero emissions latest by 2070 and reduce its carbon emissions until 2030 by a billion tonnes.   

Green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis – the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen – with electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or biomass. However green hydrogen, also called “renewable hydrogen”, is expensive to produce and accounts for less than1 percent of worldwide hydrogen production. 

Currently, most of the hydrogen globally is generated from fossil fuels, resulting in an adverse impact on the environment. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that hydrogen production is responsible for the emission of around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Most of the hydrogen manufactured now is the so-called “black or brown” hydrogen produced from coal.  

Instead, “blue hydrogen” refers to hydrogen produced using fossil fuels — usually natural gas — with the associated emissions captured and stored via the process known as carbon-capture.   

The intent of the mission is to incentivise the commercial production of green hydrogen and make India a net exporter of the fuel.

According to the government, the mission will “facilitate demand creation, production, utilisation and export of Green Hydrogen.”   

There are two umbrella sub-missions under the programme. The first is the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT), that will fund the domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and produce green hydrogen. The second is to support pilot projects in emerging end-use sectors and production pathways. States and regions capable of supporting large scale production or use of hydrogen will be identified and developed as green hydrogen hubs. 

Green hydrogen development is still in the nascent stages globally, and while it is the fuel of the future, it is not the production of hydrogen per se which is the challenge, but the production of green hydrogen.   

According to a recent report titled “The Potential Role of Hydrogen in India,” by the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) “as of today, essentially all of the hydrogen consumed in India comes from fossil fuels. However, by 2050, nearly 80 percent of India’s hydrogen is projected to be ‘green’ – produced by renewable electricity and electrolysis.” The report also said that in the mid-term, the cost of hydrogen from renewables would drop by over 50 percent by 2030, enabling it to “start to compete with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.” 

Indian industry has already kick-started its hydrogen project. A coalition of energy and industrial firms named India H2 Alliance (IH2A) has joined together for commercialising hydrogen technologies and creating a hydrogen economy. “The India H2 Alliance will work together to build the hydrogen economy and supply chain in India and help develop blue and green hydrogen production and storage as well as build hydrogen-use industrial clusters and transport use-cases with hydrogen-powered fuel cells”, an IH2A statement said last year. 

“The India H2 Alliance will focus on industrial clusters, specifically steel, refineries, fertilizer, cement, ports and logistics; as well as heavy-duty transport use cases and the establishment of standards for storage and transport hydrogen in pressurized and liquefied form”, it said. 

“IH2A intends to collaborate with private sector partners, the government and the public to ensure that costs of hydrogen production are brought down, a local supply chain for hydrogen and related applications grows and India is able to achieve its net-zero carbon ambitions by developing a hydrogen economy that complements its national renewable energy and EV (electric vehicle)/battery-technology plans”, the statement added. 

In April 2022, state-owned Oil India Limited commissioned India’s first 99.99 percent pure green hydrogen plant at Jorhat in northeastern India. 

Indian private companies such as Adani Group, Acme Solar, Greenko and state-run firms such as Indian Oil and NTPC have been tying up with technology providers for venturing into green hydrogen production.  

According to industry sources, India requires to develop the infrastructure necessary for a hydrogen economy. Besides, the government needs to announce appropriate incentives for users of industrial hydrogen to switch to green hydrogen. To facilitate industry, India must develop supply chains in the form of pipelines, tankers, intermediate storage and last mile distribution networks. The country also needs suitably trained manpower to operationalise a green hydrogen economy.  

In this connection, the Power Minister said in the meeting with stakeholders that the mission will support pilot projects in other sectors like steel, long-range heavy-duty mobility, shipping, energy storage, among others, “for replacing fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based feedstocks with Green Hydrogen and its derivatives.” 

Pointing to the significance of hydrogen for India, R.R. Sonde, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, said that to carry all the energy as electricity, massive investment is required in the development of transmission and distribution infrastructure. 

“Green hydrogen is generated from electricity and if the electricity used is renewable such as solar, wind or biomass, hydrogen can act as storage of renewable energy, and by doing so make the ‘infirm’ nature of renewable energy a ‘firm energy’. In that sense, hydrogen is a carrier of renewable electricity, and might in future be of nuclear energy as well”, Sonde says. 

Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channeled to produce hydrogen. Besides, hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a source of energy. Hydrogen fuel must be transformed into electricity by a device called a fuel cell stack before it can be used to power vehicles.

Indian nuclear regulator AERB has a new Chairman

Distinguished scientist Dinesh Kumar Shukla took charge as the new Chairman of India’s nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), on December 31, 2022, according to an AERB release. 

He had earlier served with the AERB before superannuating from the organisation in February 2021. 

Shukla joined the AERB in 2015, where he served in various capacities as the member of the Board, Executive Director and Chairman of Safety Review Committee for Operating Plants. 
Shukla is an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of nuclear safety. After graduating from Government Engineering College, Jabalpur in Mechanical Engineering in 1980, Shukla joined the Bhabha Atomic Energy Research Centre (BARC) in 1981. 
He had been associated with the commissioning of the high flux research reactor ‘Dhruva’ and later held the position of Head, Reactor Operations Division, BARC. 
The AERB was constituted in 1983 under India’s Atomic Energy Act, 1962, to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions under the Act.  

The mission of the AERB is to ensure that the use of ionizing radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to the health of people and the environment. 

Earlier last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted its Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission to review India’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. 

The IRRS peer review mission took place at the request of the Indian government and was hosted by the AERB. 

According to an AERB release, while a similar IAEA mission in 2015 covered regulatory activities in relation to nuclear power plants, the scope of the recent mission, besides the follow up of the 2015 mission recommendations and suggestions, was extended to include the review of safety regulations of radiation sources facilities and activities.   

The ten member IRRS team was composed of senior regulatory experts from five IAEA member states and IAEA staff members, the statement said.  

“The IRRS team reviewed India’s progress against the recommendations and suggestions identified in the initial IRRS mission-2015 and safety regulations of radiation sources used in facilities and in activities in the country in the field of research, industry, medicine and agriculture”, the statement said.  

“The IRRS team led by Mr. Ramzi Jammal acknowledged that the AERB has acted on all the recommendations and suggestions made during the 2015 mission and thus significant improvements have been made in various areas, and noted a number of achievements in the following areas — improved inspection programme, including enhanced training and strengthening the powers of inspectors; staff qualification and training programmes aimed at building and maintaining expertise necessary for discharging its responsibilities; process for regularly reviewing regulations and guides”, it added. 

Germany logs its hottest year in 2022

Germany recorded its hottest year in 2022 with an annual mean temperature of 10.5 degrees Celsius, the National Meteorological Service (DWD) has said. 
The country saw an “exceptional weather year,” the DWD said last week. Temperatures were 2.3 degrees Celsius above the value of the internationally valid reference period (1961-1990), and were higher than in 2018, the previous record holder. 
“Several intense heat waves in June and July led to record temperatures across Europe,” the DWD noted. As a result, Germany also set a new annual record for sunshine hours and had 15 percent less rain than usual. 
Earlier this week, the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) said in its market report that the heat and drought during the summer months had again limited vegetable yields. Harvest volumes of fresh vegetables were estimated to be significantly lower than in 2021. 
River shipping in Germany was also severely affected by the drought in summer. The Rhine, Europe’s busiest waterway, saw water levels fall to record lows, forcing ships to carry less cargo during a time when the country’s chemical industry was already struggling with supply bottlenecks. 
The weather data for 2022 should be a “renewed incentive for all of us to finally move from talking to taking action in climate protection,” Tobias Fuchs, Director of climate and environment at the DWD, said in a statement. 
“Global warming continues almost unabated,” Fuchs added. So far, the world has “not managed to effectively put the brakes on greenhouse gases”. 
Germany aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to be climate neutral by 2045. However, Europe’s largest economy remains a long way from achieving its mid-term climate targets, according to a report by the German government’s Expert Council on climate issues published at the beginning of November. 
“The emission reduction rates achieved so far are far from sufficient to meet the climate protection targets for 2030,” Council member Thomas Heimer said. 
“The annual reduction of emissions would have to double compared to the historical development of the last 10 years,” he said.  

Meanwhile, the UK, Ireland, France and Spain have also declared 2022 as their hottest year on record. 

India taking steps for developing small modular reactors 

India is taking steps for the development of small modular reactors (SMR) with up to 300 megawatts (MW) capacity to fulfill the country’s commitments towards clean energy transition, according to the Indian Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh. 

These commitments, as announced by India at the COP26 climate change talks in Glasgow last year, include achieving net zero emissions latest by 2070 and reducing its carbon emissions until 2030 by a billion tonnes. 

At a workshop on SMRs held last month in the capital New Delhi, the Atomic Energy Minister said that nuclear energy in terms of reliable base load power can play a big role in the country’s de-carbonisation strategy. “The role of nuclear energy will be critical for the clean energy transition of not just India but for the entire world”, Singh said.  

Both the continuing concerns about climate change and the ongoing crisis in the energy market caused by rising fuel prices have led to renewed interest globally in nuclear as a source of clean energy, while some countries like Japan and South Korea have even announced a reversal of their earlier policy of not building new nuclear power plants (NPPs).  

This development has, naturally, put the focus also on the technology of small modular reactors, which, as Minister Singh described them, are flexible in design and require a smaller footprint.   

“Being mobile and agile technology, SMRs can be factory-built unlike the conventional nuclear reactors that are built on–site. Thus, SMRs offer significant savings in cost and construction time”, he said at the workshop organised by India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).  

SMRs are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW. They are a fraction of the size of conventional reactors, as well as modular, making it possible for systems and components to be factory-manufactured and transported as a unit to a location for installation. 

SMRs offer many advantages, such as relatively small physical footprints, reduced capital investment, ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions.   

Almost all Asian countries that have embarked on civilian nuclear energy programmes have been guided by the major concern of providing energy security for their populations, reduce dependence on fossil fuels in the context of climate change, as well as the cost of nuclear technology, which has become an important factor as prices have risen sharply in the last decades.  

What adds to the cost of conventional nuclear power plants in the 700-1000 MW category are long construction periods and related delays, parting from the initial requirement of large land areas for setting up such NPPs. 

In such a context, SMRs provide an attractive proposition, foremost from the cost aspect, while addressing other related concerns of safety, the issue of nuclear waste and that of the large land requirement for NPPs. Moreover, SMRs can also help address the electricity requirements of far-flung communities that are dispersed over the hinterlands of rural Asia. SMR construction can be carried out by small utilities and are much easier to operate and maintain in remote areas. 

According to extant research, SMRs provide increased safety by providing, among others, more efficient passive heat removal from the reactor vessel and greater quality control. Lower thermal power of the SMR reactor core, compact architecture, and employment of passive concepts have the potential for enhanced safety and security compared to earlier designs and large commercial reactors. The passive safety systems are a very important safety feature in the SMR. As a result, there is less reliance on active safety systems, additional pumps and AC power in case of an accident. 

These also have much lower land requirements, lesser delays in construction and involve significantly smaller displacement and rehabilitation of population displaced through land acquisition that would otherwise be necessary for conventional NPPs. 

The most compelling argument for the suitability of SMRs for Asian nations is from the financial point of view of lower capital requirement and the attendant potential of permitting tighter control over the three key related aspects of operation, maintenance and safety. 

The SMRs’ modular nature allows for scaling up capacity by adding units according to demand. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), SMRs are also better suited to operate flexibly in tandem with variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar in a hybrid energy system, as well as for non-electric applications such as seawater desalination, district heating and hydrogen production.  

“This is the decade of SMR demonstrations, which could potentially determine front runners for the expected economy of series production. There is high level of innovation”, says IAEA’s head of planning and economic studies Henri Paillere.  

According to Sunil Ganju, who is Member of the Nuclear Controls and Planning Wing in the DAE, the driving forces for introducing SMRs are the possibility of their “incremental deployment” in a context where “incremental demand can be closely matched with moderate financial commitment, especially for countries with smaller electricity grids”. On the safety aspect, he said “the lower core power density of SMRs and the large volume of water in the reactor power vessel delays all accident progression”.  

In an interview with Nuclear Asia, former Principal Adviser, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and former Vice Chancellor, Homi Bhabha National Institute, Ravi Grover, provided his perspective on the development of SMRs in the Indian context by saying that India can make small modular reactors as it has the talent pool. He said that India has already built a small reactor that powers its nuclear submarine INS Arihant.  

Grover noted that in its initial stages, the Indian nuclear programme used small reactors of less than 300 MW capacity that were developed indigenously, and that Indian industry makes a substantial contribution in the manufacture of most reactors in India.  

“Indian industry has the capacity to make SMRs, if one considers that companies like the state-run BHEL, as well as L&T and Walchandnagar Industries in the private sector play a major role in reactor manufacture in India”, Grover said, pointing out that India’s first indigenously made 700 MW reactor at Kakrapar in Gujarat was connected to the grid in 2021.  

“The mainstay of our nuclear programme started with reactors with a capacity of 220 MW, which was subsequently increased to 540 MW, and now we have manufactured this 700 MW optimal capacity reactor”, Grover said.  

“More than 70 commercial SMR designs are being developed around the world, and we have to decide which ones best suit our purposes. It is a question of a policy decision, and the government has to give directions in this regard”, he added.  

For instance, the small thorium-based high temperature gas-cooled reactors (STGRs) of 20-40 MW sizes are considered an appropriate choice for India given the country’s significant reserves of thorium. The IAEA has highlighted the safety features of these reactors.  

In view of the incipient stage of work on SMRs in India, Grover feels that the commercial development of such reactors in the country is still around 10-15 years away. “The move to develop SMRs is a good one and in the right direction, but we are still in the beginnings.Lots of work is required to establish their techno-commercial viability”, Grover told Nuclear Asia.

According to Grover, the regulatory aspect of SMRs is still work in progress globally, while one of the very important barriers is the licensing of new reactor designs. Historically, the licensing process was developed for large commercial reactors, while the licensing process for new reactor designs is a lengthy and costly exercise.

Chancellor of the Homi Bhabha National Institute and former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Anil Kakodkar told Nuclear Asia that the ongoing decarbonisation efforts globally have helped create a larger market for SMRs.  

Regarding the Indian situation, Kakodkar said that since India’s energy needs are continually on the rise, the country needs big capacity addition and, thus, large nuclear reactors will continue to be relevant in India. 

“Large reactors are important to increase the share of nuclear energy in the country’s overall power mix. However, aging plants need to be replaced, and a large number of coal plants will be retired, so there is the possibility of setting up SMRs at the sites of such retiring thermal plants”, Kakodkar said. 

“Locating SMRs at the location of these retiring coal plants will also satisfy the regulatory requirements for setting up SMRs, because the infrastructure is already available”, he added.  

In line with India’s target to reduce carbon emissions, it is estimated that most of its coal-fuelled thermal power plants would be retired by 2050. 

Noting that India already possesses the capability to build small reactors as demonstrated through the light water reactor powering its nuclear submarine, Kakodkar said SMRs should be built indigenously working on the “Integral”-type design in which the major components are all placed inside a single reactor pressure vessel.   

Kakodkar also said that there is no unanimity of opinion as regards the cost benefit of SMRs over that of large reactors. Most economic benefits, especially lower capital cost, stated are valid for n-th unit produced. Large-scale production of SMRs and initial orders for tens of units is required to achieve these economic benefits. 

“In this case, we have to consider the per megawatt cost, or the tariff, which will be much higher in case of the initial reactors, and which will only reduce after a certain number of reactors are set up”, he said. 

“Only repetitive orders will bring down costs, but that would take some time to happen”, he added.  

Kakodkar is of the opinion that SMR designs in India should be jointly developed by the Mumbai-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the country’s largest power generator, the state-run NTPC, which could utilise the sites and infrastructure of the retiring thermal power plants.  

Citing industry sources, media in India reported earlier this month that NTPC is planning to build a massive nuclear fleet and aims to install 20 to 30 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2040. The company, which generates 90 percent of its power from fossil fuels, has announced that it will construct SMRs as well as conventional pressurised water reactors (PWRs). 

Kudankulam nuclear plant in India opts for more advanced fuel for its reactors 

India has been offered a more advanced fuel option for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) by the Russian state-run atomic energy corporation Rosatom, according to India’s Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh.  

In a written reply to a question in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament earlier this week, Singh said that Russia has offered the more advanced TVS-2M type fuel for use in the KNPP operating reactor units 1 and 2, in place of the currently used UTVS fuel.  

“The first lot of TVS-2M fuel assemblies has been received in May-June 2022 from Russian Federation and loaded in Unit 1 and they are performing satisfactorily”, the Minister said.  

“Use of TVS-2M fuel assemblies in KNPP reactors will allow 18-month operating cycles, as against 12-month operating cycles with UTVS fuel assemblies presently in use in Unit 2”, he added.  

Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the KNPP, India’s largest nuclear plant operated by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Rosatom is similarly collaborating in the construction of four more VVER-1000 type units at Kudankulam – 3, 4, 5 and 6 – of 1,000 MW capacity each. Units 1 and 2 started commercial operations in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Kudankulam is located in Tamil Nadu state.  

Singh also informed Parliament that “after detailed deliberations by experts, considering the better operational performance with TVS-2M type fuel assemblies, it was decided to use TVS-2M fuel in place of UTVS fuel assemblies in Kudankulam Units 1 and 2.” 

At a conference on nuclear fuels held last month in Hyderabad, India, Rosatom fuel arm TVEL’s Senior Vice-President (R&D), Alexander Ugryumov, made a presentation on new Russian technologies, including new materials and models of nuclear fuel and solutions for higher uranium enrichment. 

Ugryumov said that the introduction of nuclear fuel with enrichment over the 5 percent level will enable operations of VVER-1000 reactors in longer 24-month fuel cycles. Extending the fuel cycle means that a power plant may stop reactors for refueling less frequently, thereby generating more electricity per year.    

Besides, longer fuel cycles imply fewer purchases of fresh fuel assemblies, as well as less offloading of irradiated fuel bundles and, therefore, less expenditure on handling of spent fuel.    

Ugryumov also said that using fuel with uranium enrichment over 5 percent may decrease the amount of annually replaced fuel bundles which would lead to significant economic benefits over the course of the power unit’s lifecycle.   

Ugryumov had earlier told Nuclear Asia that the TVS-2M fuel assembly offers increased uranium capacity, improved heat reliability and enhanced operational safety. While UTVS are packed with 490 kg of enriched uranium pellets, the TVS-2M bundles weigh 527 kg, allowing a nuclear plant operator a lot of options in terms of an extension of a fuel cycle length from 250 up to 510 effective full-power days, he said.   

Regarding the KNPP units under construction, the Atomic Energy Minister told the Upper House of Parliament last week that while units 3 and 4 are expected to be completed by 2025, units 5 and 6 are likely to be ready for operations in 2027.

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