In new research published in Risk Analysis, Ahmed Abdulla and his colleague Dr. Michael Ford at the Argonne National Laboratory analyze the role of economic risks and institutional risks in limiting the deployment of large, complex energy infrastructure. The abstract reads:

“Many energy technologies that can provide reliable, low-carbon electricity generation are confined to nations that have access to robust technical and economic capabilities, either on their own or through geopolitical alliances. Equally important, these nations maintain a degree of institutional capacity that could lower the risks associated with deploying emergent energy technologies such as advanced nuclear or carbon capture and storage. The complexity, expense, and scrutiny that come with building these facilities make them infeasible choices for most nations. This paradigm is slowly changing, as the pressing need for low-carbon electricity generation and ongoing efforts to develop modular nuclear and carbon capture technologies have opened the door for potentially wider markets, including in nations without substantial institutional capacity. Here, using advanced nuclear technologies as our testbed, we develop new methods to evaluate national readiness for deploying complex energy infrastructure. Specifically, we use Data Envelopment Analysis—a method that eliminates the need for expert judgment—to benchmark performance across nations. We find that approximately 80% of new nuclear deployment occurs in nations that are in the top two quartiles of institutional and economic performance. However, 85% of potential low-carbon electricity demand growth is in nations that are in the bottom two quartiles of performance. We offer iconic paradigms for deploying nuclear power in each of these clusters of nations if the goal is to mitigate risk. Our research helps redouble efforts by industry, regulators, and international development agencies to focus on areas where readiness is low and risk correspondingly higher.”