A pinboard by
Travis Carless

I am a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University. My research is focused on nuclear energy.


Generally comparisons between generating technologies are made using the levelized cost of electricity and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. However, the presence of power plants can have positive or negative impacts on local communities. While fossil fuels are relatively inexpensive, they produce harmful emissions that can cause acid rain and contribute to climate change. Nuclear power is generally considered a reliable, low-carbon, baseload energy source. However, post-Fukushima questions have been raised regarding the safety and impact nuclear power plants may have on the surrounding population. There are economic, safety, and environmental tradeoffs with coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants. An added comparative metric of community socioeconomic indicators may assist policymakers and organizations with gaining greater community acceptance for new power plants. The goal of this work is to investigate the socioeconomic impacts nuclear, coal, and natural gas power plants have on local communities using census data. This study utilizes ArcGIS in conjunction with Census block group data to analyze the characteristics of communities 0-5, 5-10, and 10-15 miles from each type of generating station using two-way ANOVA models and post-hoc Tukey’s tests to estimate significant differences based on distance and power plant type. These results provide a relatively recent indication of the socioeconomic conditions of communities relative to the distance of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants using descriptive statistics. As a follow-on, difference-in-difference event study regression models are used to measure the impact of power plants built between 1970 and 2000 on the local communities using Census tract level data. Overall this research can provide some indication if there are differences in demographics, incomes, home values, and poverty rates for communities near fossil fuel and low-carbon plants as well as determine if these differences were caused by the introduction of these plants into their respective communities.


Evaluating the Cost, Safety, and Proliferation Risks of Small Floating Nuclear Reactors

Abstract: It is hard to see how our energy system can be decarbonized if the world abandons nuclear power, but equally hard to introduce the technology in nonnuclear energy states. This is especially true in countries with limited technical, institutional, and regulatory capabilities, where safety and proliferation concerns are acute. Given the need to achieve serious emissions mitigation by mid-century, and the multidecadal effort required to develop robust nuclear governance institutions, we must look to other models that might facilitate nuclear plant deployment while mitigating the technology's risks. One such deployment paradigm is the build-own-operate-return model.Because returning small land-based reactors containing spent fuel is infeasible, we evaluate the cost, safety, and proliferation risks of a system in which small modular reactors are manufactured in a factory, and then deployed to a customer nation on a floating platform. This floating small modular reactor would be owned and operated by a single entity and returned unopened to the developed state for refueling. We developed a decision model that allows for a comparison of floating and land-based alternatives considering key International Atomic Energy Agency plant-siting criteria. Abandoning onsite refueling is beneficial, and floating reactors built in a central facility can potentially reduce the risk of cost overruns and the consequences of accidents. However, if the floating platform must be built to military-grade specifications, then the cost would be much higher than a land-based system. The analysis tool presented is flexible, and can assist planners in determining the scope of risks and uncertainty associated with different deployment options.

Pub.: 17 Jan '17, Pinned: 03 Jul '17

Addressing 2030 EU policy framework for energy and climate: Cost, risk and energy security issues

Abstract: The different energy sources, their costs and impacts on the environment determine the electricity production process. Energy planning must solve the existence of uncertainty through the diversification of power generation technologies portfolio. The European Union energy and environmental policy has been mainly based on promoting the security of supply, efficiency, energy savings and the promotion of Renewable Energy Sources. The recent European Commission communication “Towards an European Energy Union: A secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy for every European” establishes the path for the European future. This study deals with the analysis of the latest EU “Energy Union” goals through the application of Markowitz portfolio theory considering technological real assets. The EU targets are assessed under a double perspective: economic and environmental. The model concludes that implementing a high share of Renewable Energy target in the design of European Policies is not relevant: the maximization of Renewable Energy share could be achieved considering a sole Low Emissions of carbon dioxide policy. Additionally it is confirmed the need of Nuclear energy in 2030: a zero nuclear energy share in 2030 European Mix is not possible, unless the technological limits participation for Renewable Energy Sources were increased.

Pub.: 16 Feb '16, Pinned: 03 Jul '17

Energy choices and risk beliefs: is it just global warming and fear of a nuclear power plant accident?

Abstract: A survey of 3,200 U.S. residents focused on two issues associated with the use of nuclear and coal fuels to produce electrical energy. The first was the association between risk beliefs and preferences for coal and nuclear energy. As expected, concern about nuclear power plant accidents led to decreased support for nuclear power, and those who believed that coal causes global warming preferred less coal use. Yet other risk beliefs about the coal and nuclear energy fuel cycles were stronger or equal correlates of public preferences. The second issue is the existence of what we call acknowledged risk takers, respondents who favored increased reliance on nuclear energy, although also noting that there could be a serious nuclear plant accident, and those who favored greater coal use, despite acknowledging a link to global warming. The pro-nuclear group disproportionately was affluent educated white males, and the pro-coal group was relatively poor less educated African-American and Latino females. Yet both shared four similarities: older age, trust in management, belief that the energy facilities help the local economy, and individualistic personal values. These findings show that there is no single public with regard to energy preferences and risk beliefs. Rather, there are multiple populations with different viewpoints that surely would benefit by hearing a clear and comprehensive national energy life cycle policy from the national government.

Pub.: 15 Dec '10, Pinned: 03 Jul '17

A computable general equilibrium assessment of Japan’s nuclear energy policy and implications for renewable energy

Abstract: This study assesses the economic and environmental impacts of Japan’s nuclear power scenarios and examines the implications for renewable energy. To assess nuclear power scenarios, we use the following three scenarios: “new policy scenario” of the International Energy Agency as a reference; a 40-year operational time limit of nuclear power plants; and no restart of nuclear power plants. For all scenarios, renewable energy with feed-in tariffs is considered. In addition, to assess the impact on the international competitiveness of Japanese industry, we construct a multi-regional, recursive dynamic computable general equilibrium model based on version 8.1 of the Global Trade Analysis Project database. Compared to the reference scenario, the other two scenarios increase CO2 emissions through an increase in fossil fuel electricity generation and decreases Japan’s real gross domestic product, although renewable energy supply also increases. In particular, a nuclear power phase-out negatively impacts Japan’s energy-intensive and trade-exposed sectors. However, our model does not consider externalities from fossil fuel usage and nuclear risk. The results of this simulation study represent the first step in answering important questions on energy policy but further research on externalities of fossil fuel and nuclear power usage should be conducted.

Pub.: 17 Jun '16, Pinned: 03 Jul '17