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Experts Meet to Discuss IAEA Tools for Assessing Macroeconomic Impacts of Nuclear Energy

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Construction started at the Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant in Belarus on 6 November 2013. A new IAEA modelling tool, EMPOWER, will enable Member States to assess the macroeconomic impacts of nuclear energy. (Photo: Directorate for NPP Construction, Belarus)

Evaluating the feasibility of a nuclear power programme requires in-depth consideration of macroeconomic effects. Through the development of a newly updated modelling tool, the IAEA is assisting national governments in their assessment of how nuclear energy may help them reach their sustainable development and climate action goals.

Twenty-four energy planners, policymakers and regulatory officials from 14 countries and three international organizations met in Vienna from 18 to 21 June for the Technical Meeting on Measuring the Macroeconomic Impacts of a Nuclear Power Plant Programme. They reviewed the latest version of an IAEA-developed modelling tool, known as the Extended Input Output Model for Nuclear Power Plant Impact Assessment (EMPOWER). This tool, initially developed through an IAEA Coordinated Research Project, which ran from 2014 to 2018, is designed to assist experts in evaluating the impact of nuclear energy on key macroeconomic indicators, including employment, export levels and gross domestic product.  

“Many Member States, particularly developing countries, lack quantitative tools and experience to comprehensively evaluate macroeconomic effects of energy investments,” said Victoria Alexeeva, an energy economist at the IAEA. “The EMPOWER model enables them to utilize country-specific datasets to obtain a comprehensive view of how a nuclear power programme may affect a wide range of macroeconomic variables.”  

EMPOWER captures not only the direct effects of constructing, operating and decommissioning a plant, but also the indirect and induced effects along the entire supply chain. This translates to increased economic activity in the local community and beyond.

Meeting participants agreed that the EMPOWER model is sufficiently flexible and suitable for modelling macroeconomic impacts for several types of energy other than nuclear as well. They considered the model fit-for-purpose for official release.  

Ahlem Dakhlaoui, a professor of economic sciences at the University of Carthage in Tunisia, has been involved with members of the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company and the Laboratory of Industrial Economics and Management at the Polytechnic School of Tunisia (LEGI) in modelling the macroeconomic impacts of nuclear energy as Tunisia seeks to reduce its reliance on natural gas. “The vast majority of Tunisia’s electricity is generated from natural gas, some of which is imported, and Tunisia is considering nuclear energy in its long-term energy mix to meet increasing energy demand,” she said. “The results we have seen from modelling with EMPOWER indicate that employment, gross domestic product and the currency exchange rate would likely be positively affected if a nuclear power programme is implemented," she said.  

Barbara Nagel, Head of the Strategic Development and Nuclear Power Office at the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission, said that Chile has experience in modelling impacts for its electrical grid using the IAEA’s Model for Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED) and the Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact (MESSAGE), and she is encouraged by EMPOWER’s broader scope. “EMPOWER could be very useful for prefeasibility studies as Chile considers nuclear power,” she said. “The capacity of this model to project impacts in job creation and industrial efficiency will help Chile make an informed decision regarding whether to move forward with nuclear power.” Chile may also consider other uses of nuclear energy, including powering desalination plants to address water scarcity in Chile’s Atacama Desert, she added.

The IAEA had previously developed several other modelling tools which are used by about 150 Member States and 21 regional and international organizations for developing sustainable energy strategies. These tools will also be highlighted at the International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power from 7 to 11 October 2019 in Vienna.

The capacity of this model to project impacts in job creation and industrial efficiency will help Chile make an informed decision regarding whether to move forward with nuclear power.
Barbara Nagel, Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission

Twenty-four energy planners, policymakers and regulatory officials from 14 countries and three international organizations met at the Technical Meeting on Measuring the Macroeconomic Impacts of a Nuclear Power Plant Programme, Vienna, 18 June 2019. (Photo: M. Fisher/IAEA)

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