Table of Contents
The Energy Challenge
Nuclear Power Facts
Nuclear Power Advantages
The Salient Points
Annex I: The DECADES Project
Annex II: Nuclear Power Case Studies
THE DECADES PROJECT
A large number of factors influence decision making in the energy sector. To assist energy planners, the IAEA has over the years carried out comparative assessments of alternative energy sources, covering a broad range of technical, economic and environmental factors. Extensive databases and computer tools are employed to allow full energy chain analyses so that elements beyond the direct power generation stage can be examined.
To bring together expertise from a wide range of necessary scientific and technical disciplines and to promote international co-operation in energy assessments, a joint multi-organization project on Databases and Methodologies for Comparative Assessment of Different Energy Sources for Electricity Generation (DECADES) was established in 1992 when nine international bodies joined efforts to strengthen comparative assessment capabilities for the electricity sector (Box A1). The information sharing and exchange that takes place allows the alternative energy sources to be treated consistently and objectively.
The project's initial phase (1992–1996) focused on establishing databases and developing analytical tools with concurrent training and support to developing countries to carry out comparative assessment studies. The current emphasis is on improving the database and software tools while increasing technical support activities through national case studies [Fig.: DECADES Project Structure].
Three databases provide comprehensive and consistent information on energy chains for electricity generation.
The Reference Technology Database (RTDB) contains a harmonized set of technical, economic and environmental data on fossil fuel, nuclear power and renewable energy chains for electricity generation. It covers the various fuel chain stages from energy source extraction to waste disposal. A total of three hundred technological systems are characterized through parameters covering technical performance, costs, atmospheric releases, wastes and other environmental factors.
The Country Specific Database (CSDB) with a structure similar to the RTDB contains national and regional data not stored in the RTDB that can be used to carry out case studies with the DECADES analytical software or other national planning tools. Some 25 countries have developed a CSDB that covers a total of more than 2500 electricity generating technologies.
The Health and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems (HEIES) database covers power plant and fuel chain impacts. Data based on direct measurements or modelling techniques are collected from the available literature and from case studies.
The DECADES analytical software provides tools for carrying out decision support studies. The software allows access to the RTDB and CSDB databases to carry out cost and environmental analyses at power plant, electric system and energy chain levels. It is user friendly with short running times and extensive reporting capabilities for optimizing electricity generation system expansion strategies over several decades.
Twenty national case studies were carried out during the project's initial phase, supported by the IAEA co-ordinated research programme. The studies identified electricity generation strategies that could meet environmental protection objectives, particularly cost effective reduction of atmospheric emissions. They indicated that significant emission reductions could be obtained through energy chain efficiency improvements, such as during fuel conversion and transportation, and by promoting co-generation, particularly where distribution networks already exist for district heating. Adding pollution control technologies to existing power plants was often also a cost effective measure for mitigating environmental impacts. Nuclear power was clearly a cost effective option for reducing CO2, and particularly SO2 and NOx emissions, in lieu of costly abatement procedures.