Sri Lanka considers NPP construction by 2032

19 May 2023

The Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board told the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Energy & Transport that if all goes according to plan, the first NPP could be built in Sri Lanka by 2032 with Russian technical support. The issue was raised during a recent meeting in Parliament of the committee chaired by MP Nalaka Bandara Kottegoda. The meeting was convened to discuss the current status and future activities of the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board (SLAEB).

Discussions covered production of skilled professionals in the field of welding and related technology in Sri Lanka. The members of the committee pointed out that there is a great demand for experts in this field in industrialised countries including Korea and the need for a formal mechanism to produce skilled workers with formal certificates.

The training and certification system for those who already have professional experience in this sector and new entrants to the field is conducted at the training centre run by SLAEB. However, given the general lack of awareness of this training, the committee undertook to prepare a plan and take steps to involve more young people.

In March, President Ranil Wickremesihghe had advised SLAEB to collaborate with India to set up a nuclear plant in Sri Lanka following an unsolicited proposal from Rosatom to construct a plant. The Sunday Times, citing SLAEB Chairman Professor SRD Rosa, said this would be a small medium reactor (SMR), producing some 100 MWe.

Rosa expects the plant to be offshore barge-based. He also said Russia had agreed to take back the nuclear waste, which is the reason for considering the proposal. Rosa said that solar and wind are good but are “intermittent, unstable, and seasonal” power sources. If Sri Lanka is to give up coal by 2030 as planned, it has to go nuclear, he stressed.

In 2022, Wickremesinghe told the Advocata Institute in Colombo that Sri Lankans needed to “seriously consider” nuclear energy, though he conceded that in “the current context of national penury, any plan to go for nuclear energy will seem far-fetched, even impossible”.

However, while a conventional NPP would cost $10bn and could take 8-12 years to build, the option being considered by SLAEB would be far less. “Considering the expansion of Sri Lanka’s energy needs in the years to come and also considering the need to meet the challenges posed by climate change, working on the nuclear energy option is worth serious consideration,” he said.

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