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Uniform rules needed for mini nuclear reactors, say experts

Nuclear energy experts at the ATOMEXPO conference highlighted the need for standardised regulations for small modular reactors (SMRs), a promising new technology in the industry

Uniform rules needed for mini nuclear reactors, say experts

While countries like China and Russia are developing their own SMR programmes, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is working to establish common ground on safety, waste management, and other crucial aspects. Collaboration between nations, like the potential India-Russia partnership on floating reactors, could further accelerate the development and deployment of SMRs

Nuclear power experts were unanimous in their view that there is a need for common regulations for small modular reactors (SMR) which is expected to be the sunrise sector within the industry.

They were speaking at the final day of the two-day nuclear conference-cum-exhibition 13th ATOMEXPO 2024 being organised by Russia’s integrated nuclear power major Rosatom here. SMRs, or factory-made compact ones with less than 300 MW capacity, are a new development in the industry.

Incidentally, the world's first land-based small modular reactor with RITM-200N is slated to be commissioned in 2028 in the Russian Arctic region. Speaking at the conference on the topic SMR Opportunities and Challenges, Li Feng, Deputy Director of China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had identified 19 "issues" relating to SMRs like safety, nuclear fuel cycle, emergency planning, radioactive waste management and radiation protection.

He said by 2050, about 375 GW of installed power capacity may come from SMRs. He said China has begun its work on its 125 MWe SMR in Hainan.

According to Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, IAEA, there was no unanimity among the nuclear sector regulators of various nations on SMRs. He said the IAEA is trying to chart the common points to come out with a standardised document.

Last November, Alexey Likhachev, Director General, Rosatom had said India and Russia can cooperate in building small floating reactors with the latter providing the nuclear heart (reactor and the former taking care of the tow boat and the electrical systems.

Likahachev was answering a question raised at the ninth edition of the International Forum 'Primakov Readings' held in Moscow. Interestingly, India and the US, in July last year, agreed to work on the development of next-generation SMR technologies for domestic and export markets.

Venkatachari Jagannathan
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