More than 40 nations and the European Union, which together account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions, have pledged to net-zero goals, the majority of which are due by 2050. As per the International Energy Agency, the installation of low-carbon sources of energy will be critical in decreasing emissions from the energy industry, which accounts for nearly 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Advanced modeling tools will be required to examine the two primary low-carbon energy options: nuclear power and renewables, as governments, plot their path to net-zero — that is, no net greenhouse gas emissions.

IAEA specialists held two virtual events on this topic on the sidelines of the 65th IAEA General Conference: one on a new collaborative research project (CRP) on the hybrid energy systems and the other on a modeling framework to research the integration of different low-carbon energy options. “Nuclear-renewable hybrid energy facilities are integrated facilities consisting of renewable energy generation, industrial processes, and nuclear reactors,” explained Haseeb Ur Rehman, who works as a nuclear engineer from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who spoke at one of the sessions. “Hybrid energy system integrates intermittent and constantly changing wind, tidal, solar, and wave sources of energy with the base load hydroelectric as well as nuclear energy sources.”

Hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems optimization

Hybrid energy systems fulfill the demand for grid flexibility while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maximizing financial resources. While nuclear power stations are dispatchable energy sources that can alter output to meet demand, some renewables, like solar and wind power, are variable sources of energy that are affected by weather and the time of day. “A nuclear-renewable hybrid energy system can take advantage of the advantages of each technology and its mode of operation to provide reliable, sustainable, and reasonably priced low-emission electricity,” stated Ed Bradley, who serves as the IAEA Team Leader in charge of the Nuclear Power Plant Operation and Engineering Support as well as CRP co-lead. “Nuclear power can improve the efficiency of renewables, help alleviate electricity market volatility, and convey needed ancillary grid services by performing a delicate balance via flexible operation, also identified as load following, or even by adjusting yield in terms of providing heat or hydrogen.”

Nuclear–Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems for Decarbonized Energy Production and Cogeneration, a 2019 IAEA publication, discusses national methods, R&D activities, and the importance of small modular reactors. Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems, a publication in the Nuclear Energy Series, is set to be issued in 2022. The IAEA will launch a CRP on technical evaluation and improvement of the nuclear-renewable hybrid energy technologies in April 2022, based on increased interest. “The goal of the CRP is to advance knowledge in modeling, simulation, and analysis approaches for the design and optimization of comprehensive and collaborative use of renewable and nuclear energy systems,” stated Tatjana Jevremovic, who serves as the IAEA Team Leader in charge of the Water-Cooled Reactor Technology Development as well as CRP co-lead.

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