Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company, is in talks with the Indian nuclear establishment for a possible supply of technology for ‘small modular reactors’, or SMRs, Evgeny Pakermanov, President, Rosatom Overseas, told businessline here today on the sidelines of Atomexpo 2024, a global nuclear energy conference, organised annually by Rosatom.

While he did not elaborate, he answered in the affirmative when asked if Rosatom was in talks with India.

SMRs are typically small and are about 100-200 MW in size. Many countries, including India, are keen on SMRs as a source of green energy. 

The interest the world has in SMRs can be gauged by the fact that the hall in which the session on SMRs was held at Atomexpo 2024 was overflowing and many had to stand at the entrance to listen to the dozen-odd speakers.

Pakermanov dwelt on Russia’s expertise in SMRs and stressed on its advantages such as fast construction (4 years) and much less water consumption. Russia is building two nuclear-powered ice-breakers to open up the Northern Sea Route, and has a 77 MWe ship-mounted nuclear plant—Akademik Lomonosov—stationed at the Arctic sea port of Pevek. It is building its first land-based SMR in the remote province of Yukatia. The 190 MWt (55 MWe) power plant is designed to operate on 20 per cent enriched uranium, needing only 15 acres. It is expected to go on stream in 2028.

“Rosatom is prepared to offer a flexible, tailor-made SMR solution, which is designed to address most peculiar customer demands,” says the company’s website.

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Li Feng, Deputy Director of the Safety Production Committee, China National Nuclear Power Co, noted that 18 countries were working on 83 SMRs. Quoting the Nuclear Energy Agency (an intergovernmental body of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is a club of rich countries), Feng said that by 2050, SMRs could reach 375 GW of installed capacity, in an ambitious case.

China has 55 operating nuclear plants and 36 more are under construction. The country has also embarked upon an SMR programme. It is building a 125 MWe SMR at the island province of Hainan. The SMR is designed for electricity generation, heating, steam production and seawater desalination.

Common Regulations

All the experts who spoke at the conference stressed that there should be common regulations for SMRs across countries. Feng said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had identified 19 “issues” relating to SMR deployment such as safety, radiation protection, emergency planning, nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste management.

Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, IAEA, rued that there was no uniformity among the nuclear regulators of various countries on SMRs and said that IAEA was trying to find common points for evolving standardised documentation. “It is not easy,” he said.

Chudakov observed that floating nuclear power plants were the “safest in the world”, noting that in case of any mishap “you can sink the ship”.

(The writer is in Sochi at the invitation of Rosatom)