Nirab describes ways to include nuclear in UK’s net-zero policy

10 June 2020

New cost-competitive nuclear power must make a significant contribution to meeting increased demand for low-carbon electricity, the Nuclear Innovation Research and Advisory Board (Nirab) says in a new report for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It would be prudent to plan for nuclear energy to provide at least half of the firm low-carbon electricity not provided by renewables, it says.

UK must plan for nuclear in low-carbon energy mix (Image: Nirab)

Nirab, in partnership with the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office, provides independent, expert advice to the UK government on the research and innovation needed for nuclear energy to play a significant role in the country's future low-carbon and secure energy mix, and to create the environment in which the UK nuclear industry can contribute significantly to the economy.

With its newly published report, Achieving Net Zero:The role of Nuclear Energy in Decarbonisation, Nirab says it aims to support the government in identifying the role that an innovative civil nuclear power programme should play in a low-carbon energy system and the action needed to realise that potential.

It lists six recommendations for BEIS:

  • Recommendation 1  - Government should, in partnership with industry, deploy a small modular reactor fleet, with the first commercial operating reactor by 2030.
  • Recommendation 2 - Government should enable nuclear contribution to wider energy decarbonisation, by: developing a more detailed technical and commercial understanding of the role that advanced reactors can play in an evolving market for competitive low-cost heat, hydrogen and synthetic fuels; and investing in the development of reactor systems that give access to more efficient high temperature outputs.
  • Recommendation 3 - Government should enable an advanced modular reactor demonstrator in the period 2030 to 2035. An appropriate down selection should be completed as soon as possible, against a baseline of high temperature gas reactors.
  • Recommendation 4 - Publicly funded UK nuclear innovation activities should be shaped by the strategic goal of cost-effective deployment of advanced nuclear technology, supporting a decarbonised energy system, in time to make a significant contribution to decarbonisation by 2050.
  • Recommendation 5 - UK investment in nuclear fission should be leveraged effectively through international R&D programmes, that will enable successful commercialisation of technology to accelerate timeframes, making best use of resources, expertise and nuclear infrastructure.
  • Recommendation 6 - Government should ensure best value for money and increased impact of nuclear on net-zero by facilitating integration of investment and delivery between the UK fission and fusion programmes.

"Achieving a net-zero target by 2050 is likely to require all the available and capable low-carbon technologies to be deployed at scale and at the earliest opportunity; including nuclear, renewables and gas combined with carbon capture and storage. Nuclear, as well as being a source of cost competitive electricity, can contribute to the production of heat and hydrogen to decarbonise other energy vectors," Nirab said.

"Nuclear is the only 24/7 low-carbon technology to have been demonstrated at scale and has provided clean, safe and secure electricity to the grid since 1956. Therefore, in terms of energy security, cost to the economy and the ability to meet the net zero target, planning a future net zero energy system without significant nuclear energy would be extremely high risk," it added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News