G-20 meet discusses role of small modular reactors in energy transition 

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An international seminar was held last week in Mumbai on the “Role of Small Modular Reactors in Energy Transition” on the sidelines of the energy transition working group meeting at G-20 as part of India’s presidency of the grouping. 

The seminar brought together industry, policymakers, both public and private sector enterprises, regulatory bodies, and international agencies to deliberate on key issues related to the development and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs). 

Over 100 senior representatives from leading Indian and foreign agencies and companies in the nuclear sector attended the seminar. The Indian agencies participating included the Department of Atomic Energy, Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, BHEL and Larsen & Toubro, among others.  

The Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, which is assisting India in the construction of its largest nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, was represented at the seminar by Rosatom’s Head of Department Dr. Andrey Krasnov, and Director of Projects at Rosatom, Dr. Alexandre Volgin.  

According to a Rosatom statement, Dr Volgin said at the seminar that Rosatom’s expertise and knowledge in the development, construction, and operation of small modular reactors will play a pivotal role in facilitating the global energy transition towards a sustainable future. 

“We are thrilled to share Rosatom’s experience and knowledge on SMRs with India, who has been our trusted partner throughout the years. We have several exciting upcoming projects in the future, and look forward to collaborating and partnering with the Indian government and Indian industrial partners in pursuing these opportunities,” Dr. Volgin said 

The Secretary in India’s Power Ministry, Alok Kumar, told reporters in Mumbai that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) scientists are also working on developing the SMR technology indigenously. 

Energy transition is the process of revamping global energy systems through rapid introduction of low-emission energy supply technologies, and aggressive penetration of non-fossil based energy sources in the primary energy mix. Nuclear power can play an important role in the energy transition by providing base load capacity, 24/7 continuous availability and the ability to operate flexibly to complement variable renewable generation. 

SMR can play a crucial role in achieving energy transition goals effectively. Apart from providing for both electricity and process heat requirements, these have potential to complement variable renewables through flexible operations. SMRs can also be installed in remote off-grid locations.  

SMRs are conceptualized in such a way that their systems, structures and components are manufactured in a controlled factory environment, then transported to the project site and installed with a view to optimise the time and cost of the SMR project. They have potential deployment advantages like reduced land area requirement and passive safety system.   

Other advantages offered include smaller plant area, possibility to locate SMR plants at places which are not feasible for constructing large size reactors and feasibility to gradually increase capacity of a power plant by adding more modules later. Moreover, capital investment per reactor is less, but to start with, capital investment per MW may be high compared to large reactors, which would improve only after N number of units have been constructed. 

Rosatom operates nuclear powered icebreakers equipped with small reactors that help keep the Northern Sea Route (NSR) open for navigation. The company is constructing additional icebreakers under its “Project 22220” programme, which will help keep the NSR open for year-round shipping. 

The world’s only floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, has been supplying the port city of Pevek in Russia’s Chukotka region with both electricity and heat for more than two years. Rosatom has also started developing its first land-based SMR nuclear power plant in Yakutia, which will be equipped with RITM-200 reactors and is expected to be connected to the grid in 2028.