The Indian government is betting big on small modular reactors (SMRs) as a way to meet its growing energy needs and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. SMRs are typically smaller than traditional nuclear reactors, with capacities of up to 300 megawatts (MW). This makes them more flexible and easier to deploy than larger reactors.

The government is also bullish on SMRs for decarbonizing industry. SMRs can be used to produce heat and steam for industrial processes, which can help to reduce emissions from factories.

SMRs in Power Generation

National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is considering retrofitting decommissioned coal plants with SMRs. This would be a way to reuse existing infrastructure and avoid the need to build new power plants from scratch.

SMRs in Hydrogen Production

In August, speaking at a conclave on green hydrogen and net zero, senior NITI Aayog official V.K. Saraswat said that industrial units should also use SMRs to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that can be used to power vehicles and to store energy.

The Potential for SMRs in India

The projected numbers for SMRs in India are mind-boggling. The installed capacity of coal-fired plants in India stands around 220 gigawatts (GW). “[Of this 220 GW], 20 GW is already off the grid and gradually others will also be coming in the line,” A.K. Nayak, head (Nuclear Control and Program Wing) at the Department of Atomic Energy said last December at a conference organized by India Nuclear Business Platform, a nuclear power advocacy firm owned by a Singapore-based consultancy called Industry Platform.

These decommissioned coal plants, he said, can be refitted with SMRs. “There is a big opportunity for SMRs in a span of 2-3 decades… For interested companies like NTPC and others it is a business opportunity of 220 GW.”

Going by such projections, SMRs might play a bigger role in India’s energy future than large reactors.