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Comparing the risks of diverse methods of electricity generation using the J-value framework

Kearns, James (2012). Comparing the risks of diverse methods of electricity generation using the J-value framework. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This thesis presents and extends the J-value framework for assessing expenditure on risk mitigation, and then applies the method in a comparative risk assessment of UK electricity generating systems.

The thesis is split into two volumes. The first volume contains part one, in which the J-value framework is introduced and developed. The loss of life expectancy is a key parameter in the framework, and general risk models for calculating this parameter are developed in terms of exposures and responses. Specific examples of radiation and pollution models are also presented. The “Hazard Elimination Premium” is also introduced as a useful common metric for risk comparisons.

Part one also contains an assessment of the uncertainty of the J-value and its input parameters and it is found that the J-value has an internal accuracy of around 3%, but that other, context dependant parameters can degrade this accuracy. A sensitivity analysis of the J-value framework also found that the J-value was reasonably robust against random variation of the input parameters as well as against the use of simplifying assumptions used in the development of the J-value.

The second volume contains parts two and three. Part two describes the comparative risk analysis of the electricity generating systems. The analysis is carried out on nuclear, coal, natural gas, onshore wind and offshore wind. The analysis assesses human mortality impacts arising from the current and future plants over the sixty year period from 2010 to 2070 for the entire fuel chain. The results indicate that nuclear generally has the lowest impacts, while gas, onshore and offshore wind have indicative impacts that are about an order of magnitude greater, although the estimates for both wind technologies carry considerable uncertainty. Coal power was found to present high impacts compared with the other technologies, mainly as a result of pollution emissions. Total nuclear impacts were found to be sensitive to assumptions regarding the use of collective dose and the assumptions which are then used to calculate impacts. For the most pessimistic case, when world exposures are taken, total nuclear impacts increase by about an order of magnitude, which would render the risks from nuclear generation comparable with those from gas and wind generation.

Part three presents the conclusions, further work, bibliography and appendices.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Science & Technology > Engineering
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
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