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India should set up small modular reactors to meet its energy needs: NITI Member

V K Saraswat, Niti Aayog member and scientist, said that the nuclear power plant fleet mode production projects should be expedited so India can meet base load requirements soon.

India should set up small modular reactors to meet its energy needs: NITI Member - adt
New Delhi, First Published Aug 7, 2022, 3:39 PM IST

Niti Aayog member and scientist V K Saraswat suggested on Sunday that the government should prioritise the construction of small modular reactors to meet the country's energy needs while also replacing ageing thermal power plants. 

Saraswat also stated that nuclear power plant projects under fleet mode production should be accelerated so India can meet base load requirements soon. 

"We propose that in the future, we should go for small modular reactors that can meet these (energy) requirements in a distributed manner."

While talking to PTI, Saraswat said, "We also believe it will be the best approach for replacing the ageing thermal power plants."

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors with power capacities of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, or roughly one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors.

A nuclear power plant under the fleet mode is expected to be built five years after the first concrete pour.

According to Saraswat, the advantage of an advanced modular reactor is that it is factory fabricated and can be operated by any agency with greater private sector participation.

India currently operates 22 reactors with a total capacity of 6,780 MW.

Last December, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Department of Space and Atomic Energy, stated that nuclear power would account for approximately 3.1 per cent of total electricity generation in the country in 2020-21.

"The net-zero targets are expected to be met using a mix of clean energy sources, including nuclear power. In this context, the current nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW is expected to be increased to 22,480 MW by 2031 through the progressive completion of projects currently under construction and sanctioned. More nuclear power reactors are being planned for the future," Singh stated.

In response to a question about India's energy security, Saraswat, a former director general of the Defense Research and Development Organization, stated, "Our energy security per se has drastically improved because we are no longer an energy-starved nation."

He claimed that India now meets all of its energy needs domestically.

Saraswat stressed, "We are better off in terms of energy generation. We have solar power, which is nearly the most affordable in the world... In addition, the cost of establishing a solar power plant has decreased."

When asked to respond to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's claim that the Centre is forcing states to import coal for thermal power plants, Saraswat said such claims must be investigated.

He further said, " In coastal power plants, coal imports are ongoing. It is less expensive for coastal power plants to import coal rather than transport it across states, such as from Odisha to Karnataka."

Saraswat asserted that coal was made available to all thermal power plants, saying, "Landlocked states that already have thermal power plants are supplied coal even when loads have increased."

For example, he recalled that this summer, loads peaked, and there was a commotion about coal availability for power plants.

"We were also able to provide coal by collaborating with the railways (to power plants across states). So managing what is known as increased demand has been accomplished very efficiently," Saraswat explained.

Rao recently claimed that the BJP-led NDA government is corrupt and that the government at the Centre would be replaced with an investigation into misdeeds such as coal import pressure on states.

(With inputs from PTI)

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