Comparative Assessment of Nuclear Power and other Energy Sources

Excerpt from the IAEA Annual Report for 1994

(Editor's note: The format of scientific notations in this electronic presentation is being standardized.)

Programme overview

The programme on comparative assessment of nuclear power and other energy sources seeks to incorporate health and environmental aspects, as well as technical and economic factors, into policy making for the power sector. While ensuring an adequate supply of electricity is a prerequisite for social and industrial development in many Member States, alleviating and mitigating the impacts of human activities on health and the environment have become worldwide objectives.

Work has progressed in the framework of the DECADES project on databases and methodologies for the comparative assessment of different energy sources for electricity generation. This project is being carried out jointly by nine international organizations (the Agency, EC, ESCAP, IIASA, OECD/NEA, OPEC, UNIDO, WMO and the World Bank) under the supervision of a Joint Steering Committee composed of representatives of all the participating organizations. The Steering Committee has decided to continue the DECADES project in 1995 and 1996 with the aim of enhancing the tools developed and implemented in 1993 and 1994, and disseminating the results through seminars, workshops and training courses.

Preparation of an inventory of electricity generation technologies was pursued under the guidance of experts from Member States and international organizations participating in DECADES. A user oriented database management system, the Reference Technology Data-base (RTDB), was implemented. This allows easy access to, and handling of, the information by a broad range of users. Furthermore, the computer structure has been released to Member States, upon request, for the establishment of country specific databases which provide a framework for storing data on electricity generation technologies currently used and expected to be implemented in the country.

Integrated electricity system analysis software (DECPAC) was developed for screening, assessing and comparing different system expansion strategies, taking into account electricity generation chain emissions and other burdens, as well as economic and technical factors.

Assessment of costs of nuclear and other energy systems

Work continued on the collection and analysis of the costs of nuclear power and other energy systems. In particular, the costs of pollution abatement technologies were analysed in a series of meetings and a preliminary assessment of their influence on the competitiveness of nuclear power was carried out. Information gathered through these activities was included in the RTDB.

Activities continued, in co-operation with the OECD/NEA, on nuclear fuel cycle costs, operating and maintenance costs and the economic aspects of nuclear power plant life management. A report on nuclear fuel cycle costs was published by the OECD/NEA in 1994, and this organization will publish a report on nuclear operating and maintenance costs in 1995.

In connection with the economic evaluation of potable water production through desalination using nuclear energy, a regional study for North Africa was completed. The study covers the analysis of potable water demand in the region, identification of sites for desalination plants and assessment of the economics of nuclear power for potable water production.

Comparative assessment of the health and environment impact of nuclear power and other energy systems

A Technical Committee meeting was held in Vienna in May to explore the use of environmental indicators in the comparison of environmental impacts from energy systems. The papers presented at the meeting provided information on the establishment and use of environmental indicators that are being incorporated into a procedural guidelines document for conducting comparative assessments.

IAEA/UNEP/UNIDO/WHO project on risk assessment

In conjunction with the development of guidelines for integrated risk assessment and management in large industrial areas, support continued for case studies in North Bohemia, the Czech Republic, and in Zagreb, Croatia. A new case study in Sosnovy Bor, the Russian Federation, has also been initiated.

Comparative assessment of the ecological impact and effect on climate change of nuclear and other energy systems

The Agency participated in the plenary meeting of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), held in November, in Nairobi, during which the Special Report to the Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted. The Agency also participated in meetings of the three IPCC Working Groups. A supporting document to the IPCC Second Assessment Report on nuclear power as an option for alleviating greenhouse gas emissions was prepared and will be published in 1995.

The services of consultants were used to study 85Kr radiation induced impacts on atmospheric ozone. On the basis of information provided, it was concluded that atmospheric 85Kr concentration levels do not significantly affect the tropospheric concentration levels of ozone.

Incorporation of comparative assessment in energy and electricity planning

The Joint Steering Committee for the inter-agency DECADES project on data-bases and methodologies for the comparative assessment of different energy sources for electrical generation met twice to review the progress of work and design a programme of activities for 1995 and 1996. It is expected that the programme will focus on clarifying the project results and disseminating them to Member States and other international organizations.

Work has continued on the establishment of the RTDB, which contains an inventory of technologies for electricity generation. The services of consultants were used and a Technical Committee meeting was held to collect data on technical and economic parameters, and on emissions and residuals for technologies currently used or under development at the different levels of electricity generation chains. An operational version of the computerized database (diskettes for use on PCs) was made available and will be released to Member States, upon request, in 1995. A database management system, which supports the RTDB, permits data access and display and offers capabilities for the comparative assessment of different energy chains for electricity generation. The computerized structure of RTDB is being used by experts from several Member States to establish country specific databases (CSDBs).

Electricity system analysis software, known as 'DECPAC Phase 1' was developed for release in 1995. This software is an integrated package for electricity system expansion planning, taking into account economic and environmental factors, and is designed for use on PCs, together with the RTDB or CSDBs.

A review of computer tools for the comparative assessment of electricity generation options and strategies was carried out. A report describing the main characteristics and assessment capabilities of these tools will be published early in 1995.

Work has started, in co-operation with other international organizations including the World Bank, on the preparation of a reference book on economic, health, environmental and social aspects of policy making for the power sector.