Research Projects and Publications

The Ring of Fire: Priority Setting for Nuclear Power in the North

Abstract: The objective of this work is the creation of a framework for future priority-setting regarding the deployment of small modular reactor in isolated Northern energy grids. For this purpose this study uses a model-based approach, making use of the TIMES modeling environment. With energy being an absolute necessity in these regions, energy security is of the utmost importance. Currently, the most secure way of generating electricity comes mainly from diesel fuel. However, diesel power comes at a high cost in the form of emissions, operational expenses and pollution. This puts an extreme financial burden on local communities and deters mining companies from investing in these inhospitable regions. The creation of the TIMES-Ring of Fire model makes it possible to analyze different scenario’s at the proposed Eagle’s Nest mine. Here, the proposed energy from diesel power is compared to multiple theoretical nuclear reactors. Small modular reactors prove to be competitive, however, they have a high level of uncertainty due to their limited data and experimental nature. With current assumptions, SMRs prove to be competitive between discount rates of 0-8%, and become increasingly competitive at longer energy-system lifetimes. The possible introduction of a carbon tax increases SMRs competitiveness even further. Discount rates turn out to be a major variable in the assessment of SMR technology, as all investments are placed in the first year, compared to diesel fuel which has most expenses in the future. Diesel fuel therefore is discounted more and has a relatively steady levelized cost of energy (LCOE). In contradiction, SMR LCOEs changes considerable with a varying discount rate. As a measure of competitiveness, the LCOE of nuclear power can drop to approx. 31% of the comparable diesel system (20 year lifetime, linear carbon tax, 0% discount rate). This study, besides confirming past results, warrants future research and provides a flexible framework for this purpose.