Economics professor presented his model to compare power sources with their effect on the environment.
(April 12, 2005) GENEVA, N.Y.—Associate Professor of Economics Tom Drennen has recently returned from Vienna, Austria, where he presented a paper at the second annual International Workshop on Radiological Sciences and Applications: Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology, sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Drennen, an expert in interweaving economics with environmental issues, has created and continues to perfect interactive computer models that explain the relationship between energy use and climate change. These research projects are funded by the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.
At the workshop in Vienna, Drennen discussed the economics of building new nuclear power plants. His talk, titled “The Cost Competitiveness of Nuclear Power for Electricity Generation,” compared his own estimates, based on the electricity generation cost simulation model, with other recent studies that have evaluated the economic viability of newly constructed plants, including those performed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Nuclear power’s future economic viability is dependent on several key factors, ranging from capital, operation and maintenance, and fuel costs (both nuclear and its competitors) to costs associated with delays in obtaining permits and licenses and decisions about climate and other environmental policy.
Drennen's basic conclusion is that without significant changes in construction time or costs, new nuclear facilities in the U.S. cannot compete with the alternatives, such as coal. Drennen notes another potential option for reducing projected costs is through governmental support, such as production tax credits.
Drennen's model allows the user to quickly conduct sensitivity analysis on the key variables, as well as construction time, heat rate, capacity and pollution control options for carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury. The results from the model compare the economic viability of each generating technology with the emission trade-offs.
For example, Drennen found that using pulverized coal and gas to produce electricity cost the least, and nuclear power production costs too much to compete with them. However, when pollution control was taken into consideration, the emissions and associated costs from coal and gas make nuclear power a more feasible option.
Drennen joined the HWS faculty in 1995. He holds a Ph.D. in resource economics from Cornell University, a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota, and a bachelor of science degree in nuclear engineering from MIT. He received top awards and merits while studying at each institution, most notably having his Ph.D. dissertation nominated by Cornell University for the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award of the American Agricultural Economics Association.
In addition, Drennen has been called to Washington to discuss domestic energy policy and the United States' role in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.