1996 Annual Report
Comparative Assessment of Nuclear Power and other Energy Sources
All fuel chains for electricity generation involve some health risks and lead to certain environmental impacts. Since many countries need to define sustainable energy programmes for the coming decades, interest has grown in the application of improved data, tools and techniques for the comparative assessment of different options and strategies for electricity supply. The Agency's activities in this area seek to merge health, environmental, technical and economic factors into planning and decision making for the electricity sector.

The Agency continued, within the framework of the interagency DECADES project, to develop and update databases and methodological tools. The Reference Technology Database (RTDB), which contains generic information on the technical, economic and environmental aspects of various components of different energy chains, was expanded to cover about 300 energy facilities.

In order to allow for more specific assessments to be undertaken in particular national situations, development continued of country specific databases (CSDBs), mainly by providing technical support to national experts from various Member States. In addition to updating some of the existing CSDBs, 9 new CSDBs were established, raising the total number to 24. Improvements were also made, as a result of user feedback, to the Agency's methodological software for comparative assessment studies (DECPAC) to permit assessments at the power plant, full energy chain and electricity supply system levels.

Work began on a reference book, on enhanced electricity system analysis for decision making, with the help of experts from national and international organizations active in the field. The book will describe an overall framework and processes and state-of-the-art methods and techniques for carrying out comparative assessment studies.

A CRP on case studies to assess and compare the potential role of nuclear power and other energy options in reducing emissions and residuals from electricity generation was completed. Twenty-two country case studies were prepared, with technical support from the Agency. The range of issues covered: assessment of the potential role of nuclear power in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; the effects of carbon dioxide taxation and/or emission constraints on the future electricity generation mix; and the impact of privatization and deregulation of the electricity sector on system expansion strategies. The results showed that significant reductions of emissions and other environmental burdens can be obtained by improving the efficiency of facilities at different levels of the energy chains and by using better quality fuels, or by fuel switching. The rehabilitation of power plants, in particular by adding pollution control technologies, was found to be a cost effective measure in mitigating environmental impacts. In most of the studies where nuclear power was considered as a possible option for electricity system expansion, it was found to be cost effective for reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The Agency continued to contribute to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). In particular, information was provided to an IPCC working group analysing climate change, and to the Subsidiary Body of the FCCC for Scientific and Technological Advice on the potential role of nuclear power in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector.

In this connection, the Agency held two Advisory Group meetings in 1996, one on greenhouse gas emissions from hydropower and the other on wind and solar technologies. The findings show that nuclear, wind and, in some cases hydropower, are generating options with the lowest full energy chain greenhouse gas emissions. The relevant emission factors, in g CO2 equivalent/Kw·h(e), are in the range of 0.4 to 3 for run of river hydropower, about 10 for nuclear power and for wind (without backup) at favourable sites, and 17 to 26 for hydropower plants with reservoirs. The corresponding figures for solar thermal plants and for photovoltaic systems (without backup) are in the ranges of 50 to 80 and 100 to 280, respectively.

Agency co-operation with the OECD/NEA and the International Energy Agency found expression in the initiation of an update of comparative projected costs of generating electricity. The study will provide a reliable comparison of electricity generation costs for nuclear and fossil fuel fired base load power plants that can be expected to be commissioned within the next 10-15 years. The last such study was carried out in 1992.

A document on general guidelines for the comparative assessment of the health and environmental impacts of electrical energy systems was completed. The document provides a framework for carrying out comparative risk assessments and identifies the major technical issues and uncertainties in the assessment process. It will be published in 1997.

The IAEA/UNEP/UNIDO/WHO project on risk management in large industrial areas was completed in 1996 and two documents were prepared. One is a manual for the classification and prioritization of risks as a result of major accidents in process and related industries. The other provides guidelines for integrated risk assessment and management in large industrial areas.