Sustainability development platform for nuclear-renewable energy integration: Environmental impacts, economics, and socio-political implications

Lauren Boldon, Piyush Sabharwall, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Neyda Abreu, Li Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Global energy needs are primarily being met with fossil fuel plants in both developed and developing nations. Although it is unlikely to entirely replace fossil fuel systems, the incorporation of alternative energy systems that produce fewer emissions and utilize fewer resources may prove useful in furthering sustainable energy practices. Nuclear and Renewable Energy Integration (NREI) represents one potential, alternative system and is comprised of both nuclear and renewable technologies coupled with energy storage and industrial process heat applications. This article reviews the fundamentals of sustainability and its drivers, defines the necessary scope for analyzing energy systems, details widely used sustainability metrics, and assesses sustainability through the sustainability efficiency factor (SEF) based on the core pillars of economy, environment, and society—all of which aim to promote future sustainable development. The assessment is performed for an NREI system comprised of a small modular reactor (SMR), where a portion of the heat generated is utilized for hydrogen production through high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE). The global warming potential for NREI is compared to the typical emissions observed for hydrogen production via steam methane reforming and are estimated to yield 92.6% fewer grams of CO2-equivalent per kilogram of hydrogen produced. Furthermore, the calculated SEF for NREI is 22.2% higher than steam methane reforming. Because SMR designs are at varying design, developmental, and deployment stages, a method of estimating economics is presented to demonstrate the differences observed between first-of-a-kind (FOAK) and nth-of-a-kind (NOAK) units, as well as the resulting total capital investment cost. Finally, a comprehensive list of considerations necessary for future energy system development was enumerated based on four core assessment areas: technical feasibility, environmental impact, economic feasibility and impact, and socio-political impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-78
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Energy, Environment and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Energy(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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