Ad hoc Expert Group on the Role and Economics of Nuclear Co‑generation in a Low‑carbon Energy Future (COGEN)

The NEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organised a workshop on the technical and economic assessment of non-electric applications of nuclear energy in April 2013. This addressed the topics of district heating, desalination, high-temperature applications (process heat and hydrogen production), hybrid energy systems combining nuclear power and renewable technologies, and economic modelling. Following that workshop, the NDC supported an activity to develop a better standardised methodology for assessing the economic case for nuclear cogeneration.

Objectives and scope

Even though there are proven examples of developing non-electric applications of nuclear energy at industrial scale, especially in the area of district heating, there is no clear economic assessment methodology for assessing the case for developing such applications further. Looking at past or current examples, it is also sometimes difficult to assess the clear benefits to the operator of the nuclear power plant, to the end-user of the non-electric product (usually heat) delivered by the nuclear power plant and to the community at large – of these projects. Reasons include the fact that in some cases, non-electric applications were developed on the basis of centrally planned infrastructure plans with little concern for the profitability of the projects, and also the fact that although there is usually a clear market price for electricity delivered to customers, the pricing of heat does not always adequately reflect the production and the distribution costs. The lack of a well-defined economic assessment methodology makes the development of a business case for non-electric applications of nuclear energy difficult.

The proposed study aims at filling this methodology gap, by developing an approach that can help assess the costs and benefits of developing other products besides electricity. It is suggested to develop a generic methodology, applicable to any kind of co-generation process, as well as to any kind of nuclear reactor technology (water-cooled reactors, high‑temperature reactors, liquid-metal-cooled reactors, small modular reactors, etc.). The methodology could be applied to different combinations of reactor technology and applications (for instance HTR and H2 production, or SMR and desalination, etc.), to form a set of theoretical case studies.

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Expert group working area (password protected | reminder)


Mr Henri Paillère
+33 1 45 24 10 67

Last reviewed: 14 February 2017