Nucleareurope calls for expansion of EU hydrogen output

22 May 2024

Nuclear trade body Nucleareurope has highlighted the benefits of European-based hydrogen production from nuclear energy in a new position paper.

(Image: Pixabay)

Nucleareurope noted a recent survey by McKinsey found that intensive gas buyers expect to reduce their gas demand in the future, largely by switching to hydrogen or synthetic gases produced via hydrogen.

"For the time being, the European Commission's focus is primarily on hydrogen produced exclusively from renewables, with a significant share of this hydrogen being imported from third countries, notably from the global south," the position paper says. "This will result in an important increase in energy demand due to transportation and losses while potentially exploiting countries where energy poverty is high and affecting Europe's energy sovereignty by creating a dependency on imported renewable hydrogen."

The European Commission's REPowerEU plan - adopted in May 2022 to rapidly reduce EU dependence on Russian fossil fuels - foresaw 10 million tonnes of domestic hydrogen production complemented with 6-10 million tonnes of imported hydrogen by 2030. However, following the communication in February this year on the 2040 climate targets, this plan has been downsized to 3 million tonnes, "perhaps to align it with the realistic forecasts of domestic production via renewables," Nucleareurope said.

"This is where other low-carbon energy sources, such as nuclear, could fill the gap and help meet the original ambitions, as the main target remains unchanged: net-zero by 2050," it added.

According to Nucleareurope, the main advantage of hydrogen production via nuclear is that the load factor of the installed electrolysers will be maximised with baseload production - possibility to reach 8000 hours per year with nuclear and improve the lifetime and payback of the installation.

One existing nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1000 MWe and a capacity factor of over 90%, coupled with 1000 MW of electrolysers, could produce about 0.16 million tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen per year, providing an uninterrupted supply to end-users, it noted. This output could increase further by up to 20% if coupled with high-temperature electrolysers capable of using nuclear steam.

In order to support the deployment of domestic hydrogen production, Nucleareurope recommends that the EU focus on: encouraging a diversified approach to hydrogen production that recognises the potential of all net-zero technologies; emphasising the importance of energy sovereignty in the context of hydrogen production; developing policies to support the growth of domestic hydrogen industries, recognising their role in reindustrialisation and job creation; advocating for strategic investments in infrastructure that support domestic hydrogen production, storage and distribution; and allocating resources for research and development initiatives focused on improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of hydrogen production technologies, including nuclear-based methods.

"Domestic production of hydrogen can help solve some of the challenges which the EU is facing in terms of energy security, environmental sustainability, and economic competitiveness" said Nucleareurope Director General Yves Desbazeille. "Reimagining how hydrogen, a versatile and clean energy carrier, can play an important leading role in transforming the energy system is key in this respect."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News