The IAEA has released a new version of a software tool for comparing the economics of different technologies for electricity generation. Developed and updated by the IAEA’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), the Nuclear Energy System Economics Support Tool (NEST) evaluates the economics of different reactor types and fuel cycles.
“NEST also allows the comparison of economic characteristics of nuclear power plants with other sources, such as fossil fuel plants,” said Andriy Korinny of the IAEA’s INPRO Section. “We’ve expanded this latest version to include wind and solar power plants, in addition to other evaluation features. This will increase the usefulness of the tool for Member States.”
NEST can be used to calculate costs such as total capital investment and levelized unit energy as well as financial figures of merit including return on investment, internal rates of return and net present values. Calculations can be performed for different nuclear fuel cycle conditions including a fuel assemblies purchase and spent fuel ‘take-back’ option, once-through fuel cycles and closed fuel cycles.
NEST was developed as part of IAEA nuclear energy system sustainability assessments (NESA) to enable an economic analysis using the INPRO methodology. The first version was completed in 2012. Since then, the economic support tool has been continuously improved based on Member State reviews and feedback. Recent enhancements made include a more user-friendly interface, adaptable structure and graphics support. Further updates have refined the algorithms on which NEST results are based. Benchmark exercises of NEST and the Generation IV International Forum's G4ECONS tool (Generation 4 Excel-based calculation of nuclear systems) also contributed to improvements.
NEST’s first two user countries were Argentina and Belarus, which conducted NESA studies. Later China, India, Indonesia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine applied the tool in assessing the sustainability of their existing or planned nuclear energy systems. It was also distributed widely to dozens of other countries, most recently to Ghana and Kenya, which are considering nuclear power.
NEST has been used in numerous training activities of the INPRO Section and the Planning and Economics Studies Section (PESS). It is also part of the new INPRO service on Analysis Support for Enhanced Nuclear Energy Sustainability (ASENES).
“NEST is useful for experienced nuclear engineers as well as trainers who would like to build capacity among junior analysts,” said Andrii Gritsevskyi of the IAEA's Planning and Economics Studies Section. “It helps users with limited experience in energy systems modelling to identify key economic and technical parameters that significantly impact results. It is an efficient training and educational tool for nuclear engineers willing to expand their knowledge in energy economics.”
The updated version is intended for nuclear engineers from technical support organisations who are interested in economic evaluations and nuclear power programme planning. It will also be useful for countries planning to build their first nuclear power plant or expanding an existing nuclear fleet.