A " Grammar" for assessing the performance of power-supply systems: Comparing nuclear energy to fossil energy

François Diaz-Maurin, Mario Giampietro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article illustrates an innovative approach for the characterization and comparison of the performance of power-supply systems. The concept of 'grammar' forces to declare the pre-analytical decisions about: (i) semantic and formal categories used for the accounting - primary energy sources (PES), energy carriers (EC), and production factors; (ii) the set of functional and structural elements of the power-supply system included in the analysis. After having tamed the systemic ambiguity associated with energy accounting, it becomes possible to generate a double assessment referring to: (i) external constraints - the consumption of PES and the generation of waste and pollution; and (ii) internal constraints - the requirements of production factors such as human labor, power capacity, internal consumption of EC for making EC. The case study provided compares the production of EC (electricity) with " nuclear energy" and " fossil energy" When considering internal constraints, nuclear energy requires about twice as much power capacity (5.9-9.5 kW/GWh vs. 2.6-2.9 kW/GWh) and 5-8 times more labor (570-640 h/GWh vs. 80-115 h/GWh). Things do not improve for nuclear energy when looking at external constraints - e.g. the relative scarcity of PES. This may explain the difficulties faced by nuclear energy to gain interest from investors. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-177
JournalEnergy
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Keywords

  • Biophysical economics
  • Fossil energy
  • Integrated analysis
  • Nuclear energy
  • Power generation
  • Power-supply systems

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