The Indian Government is looking at offering sops along the lines of a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturing small modular reactors (SMRs), aiming to increase the share of nuclear power in India’s energy output.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is working on the scheme with inputs from the NITI Aayog. SMRs are smaller reactors that can be factory-built, unlike conventional nuclear reactors that are built on-site.
They have a power capacity of up to 300 MW per unit—which is about a third of the capacity of traditional nuclear reactors. But, being a mobile and agile technology, they can be set up in locations not suitable for larger plants.
Several clean energy technologies have grown in the country with initial support from the government and in the case of SMRs too a similar scheme is required to attract private investments and scale up production to lower the cost,” said sources.
PLI schemes, introduced in 2020, allow the government to provide financial incentives in terms of a share of the sales value. So far, the government has announced PLI schemes for 14 sectors with an outlay of ₹1.97 trillion.
Similarly, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has come up with strategic interventions for the Green Hydrogen Transition (Sight) program for incentivizing the production of green hydrogen and electrolyzers with an outlay of over ₹17,000 crore.
Sources said that before announcing the scheme, the government would look at having an India-made prototype ready.
“The first requirement is to build some kind of a prototype and then commercial-scale production will have to be looked at. Private players are very much interested in producing SMRs in India,” the sources added.
Further, the government is also working on the regulatory aspect to ensure safeguards and safety aspects for the usage and adoption of SMRs.
India is having bilateral talks with France, Russia, South Korea, and the US for the required technologies and investments, said the first person mentioned above.
Queries mailed to the Department of Atomic Energy remained unanswered at press time.
The push for nuclear power, which is considered to be a cleaner fuel or non-fossil fuel, comes in the backdrop of India’s ambitious net zero goals. India has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070.
Currently, India’s installed nuclear power capacity stands at 7.48 GW and is expected to reach 22.28 GW by 2031.
Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh told Parliament in August that the government is exploring options of collaborating with other countries and taking up indigenous development of SMRs.
He said provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, of 1962 are being examined to allow participation of the private sector and startups to promote SMR technology in the country.
Singh said SMR is a promising technology in industrial de-carbonization especially where there is a requirement for a reliable and continuous supply of power.
A NITI Aayog report says that given the nascent nature of the technology and investor perceptions of business and regulatory risks, collaborative involvement of government and private sectors is critical to de-risk projects and accelerate commercialization.
“They (SMRs) can accelerate energy transition by facilitating greater penetration of nuclear energy as they possess attributes such as low inventory of nuclear material per reactor, feasibility of deployment at difficult sites and phased capital expenditure by adding successive batches of SMR modules.”