By Mandeep Bhandal, on 20 February 2013
ISRS Senior Researcher, Jas Mahrra comments on the need to explore the resilience of Micro Nuclear Energy.
Measuring the resilience of Micro Nuclear Energy
On the 15 February the FT commented on the state of the nuclear industry (Price gap threatened nuclear aims and Nuclear flexible fission). It pointed to the debate around Britain’s nuclear options as being in a state of flux as the battle for pricing and subsidies continues. There is increasing enthusiasm across the world to continue a nuclear option but on a much smaller scale. These micro generation nuclear plants are seen as the answer to the escalating investment decisions of building the traditional big nuclear power plants and their corresponding decommissioning costs.
Nuclear energy has been the archetypal energy generation and distribution mode for the 20th Century in that it was big centralised and worked through wide area distribution. This underpinned and defined health and safety, protective security (physical, personnel, information etc) and how Industrial Control Systems (ICS) linked this mode with all others through the grid.
Whatever the options are for either a big nuclear plant programme verses smaller scale nuclear plants the resilience of micro generation plants need to be explored and there is a need to understand both the benefits and the measure of resilience. It is worth noting that the resilience of networks, whether generation is centralised or decentralised has not been properly explored. Micro generation has been thought the preserve of renewables (wind, solar etc) and has had to address distribution and storage issues but has not been seen as involving big health and safety or protective security issues. The advent of micro generation with local and wide area distribution creates the opportunity to define resilience on new and more appropriate terms. These characteristics challenge the defining assumptions that underpin security and resilience within the nuclear sector. Such transformation means that templating legacy approaches would evidently be inadequate. Micro-nuclear generation can reframe all these assumptions about what is needed for the future.
In our forthcoming publication, entitled Resource Resilience, ISRS examine the complex and interacting energy system through an assessment of the geo-strategic, economic and environmental implications of competing resource use. We posit that a major re-think of the complexity and risk management tools are needed to better navigate through the energy crisis and enable a more resilient model. In a networked world, crises continually test for resilience. Nuclear will prove no exception to this.