Dawn Of Small Modular Reactors In Green India



INDUSLAW is a multi-speciality Indian law firm, advising a wide range of international and domestic clients from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, and government and regulatory bodies.
The Indian economy is currently the fifth largest economy in the world calculated on the basis of nominal gross domestic product1.
India Energy and Natural Resources
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on Mondaq.com.


The Indian economy is currently the fifth largest economy in the world calculated on the basis of nominal gross domestic product1. As per the projections of the International Monetary Fund2, if India continues to grow at a rate of more than 7% (seven percent) in the next five years, it will overtake Germany and Japan to become the third largest economy across the globe3. Furthermore, in the next few decades it may even be able to catch up with the economical might of China and the United States of America4. In order to reach this pinnacle of growth a key pillar which India needs is energy availability and energy security.

India annually consumes more than one gigatonne of oil equivalent5 of energy, and this demand has continued to grow at a rate of 7% (seven percent) per annum in the recent years6. Despite accounting for 17% (seventeen percent) of the global population, India consumes only 6.1% (six point one percent) of global primary energy consumption7. In order to increase the standard of living of its population and improve the indices of human development of its population, India needs to ramp up its power generation by at least four times8. However, post the Industrial Revolution, ramping up power generation is not as linear as it sounds, as now each quantum of increase in power generation has to be balanced with the increasing ecological costs on the planet and sustainable development. Therefore, development has to balance the scales between,

  1. increasing the living standards of its population and providing them with a sustainable source of energy to keep the economy growing, and
  2. controlling greenhouse gas emissions produced in the process.

Currently the power mix in India is dominated by coal-based power, which accounts for 46% (forty-six percent) of the entire supply followed by oil (accounting for 24% (twenty-four percent)), biomass (accounting for 20% (twenty percent)), natural gas (accounting for 5% (five percent)) and finally renewable and other sources of energy (hydro, nuclear, solar and wind all cumulatively for 4% (four percent))9. India would evidently need to undertake a massive shift in the source of electricity if it vows to go on the green path.

The country is making strong strides on the front of green development as seen from its aggressive targets pledged in the Nationally Determined Contribution under Paris convention of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change10. It has also set ambitious plans for reduction of carbon emission intensity of its gross domestic product by 45% (forty-five percent) by 2030, from 2005 levels and achieve 50% (fifty percent) cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 203011. Additionally, it has targeted to reach net-zero emissions by 2070. However, these plans and targets which match the prerogative of development with the pledge of clean energy rely heavily on renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

This expectation on renewable energy to carry the mantle of reducing green-house gas emissions and become a sustainable source of clean energy is not practical and sustainable due to two reasons. First, the inherent variable nature of renewable energy prevents it from becoming the sole source of round the clock ("RTC") energy, especially in the absence of large scale effective energy storage solutions. Second, there are practical limitations in efficiency of production and storage of renewable energy when compared with fossil fuel based energy which prevents it from completely replacing fossil fuel based energy sources.

In light of these challenges in renewable energy being the sole workhorse for green transition, India needs to find additional sources of clean, green, reliable energy, which not only possesses the lower carbon footprint of renewable energy, but is also vested with the reliable RTC power like that of fossil fuels.


Nuclear energy in India currently accounts for a mere 2.8% (two point eight percent) of total power generation. This energy is sourced primarily from the Indian nuclear workhorse of 700 (seven hundred) MW12 Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors13 ("PHWR(s)") 14. India plans to ramp up this to 9% (nine percent) by 204715. However, considering the current nuclear models there are many hurdles in establishing nuclear energy through PHWRs as a core source of energy. Some of the challenges to establishing traditional nuclear power plants are as follows:

  1. the high cost of setting up (the cost of setting up a PHWR nuclear plant in 2021-22 is upwards of INR 117 million (Indian Rupees One Hundred And Seventeen Million Only) /MW which is going to increase to INR 142 million (Indian Rupees One Hundred And Forty Two Million Only)/MW by 2026-2716);
  2. long construction time;
  3. over runs of cost and time schedule; and
  4. the ultimate possibility of an adverse political or social environment leading to change in the regulatory landscape.

However, despite the above challenges, it cannot be disputed that nuclear power is vested with low greenhouse gas emissions during its production cycle, and it is a viable alternative to support renewable energy sources during their variable phases to ensure RTC power availability. Hence, advocates and developers of nuclear energy have been on the lookout for an innovative solution to provide a nuclear solution, and increase its percentage in the green energy mix. The result of these efforts and research initiatives has led to the development of the ingenious model for harnessing nuclear energy – the small modular nuclear reactor ("SMR").

To view the full article, click here.


1. See https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/india-to-become-third-largest-economy-with-gdp-of-5-trillion-in-three-years-financeministry/article67788662.ece accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

2. See https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=2001124 accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

3. See https://www.ey.com/en_in/tax/economy-watch/india-towards-becoming-the-third-largest-economy-in-the-world accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

4. [ibid]

5. See https://www.enerdata.net/estore/energy-market/india/ accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

6. See https://www.enerdata.net/estore/energy-market/india/ accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

7. See https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1809204 accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

8. See https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1577011 accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

9. See https://www.enerdata.net/estore/energy-market/india/ accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

10. Nationally determined Contributions are voluntary commitments made by countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as part of their efforts and measures to achieve the global targets set under the Pariss Framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

See https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

11. See https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1885731 accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

12. Megawatt, is a unit of measuring electricity generation and consumption it aggregates to one million watts.

13. Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors are nuclear reactors which use heavy water (deuterium oxide) as coolant and neutron moderator

14. See https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/indias-targets-for-nuclear-energy-moving-closer accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

15. See https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/9-per-cent-of-indias-electricity-to-come-from-nuclear-sources-by-2047-jitendrasingh/articleshow/99361312.cms accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

16 See https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/indias-targets-for-nuclear-energy-moving-closer/ accessed on May, 22, 2024 at 16:00 (IST)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More