UK nuclear industry launches 'hydrogen roadmap'

17 February 2021

Nuclear power could produce one-third of the UK’s clean hydrogen needs by 2050, according to the Hydrogen Roadmap agreed by the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) last week. The NIC, co-chaired by the minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth and the chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), sets strategic priorities for government-industry collaboration to promote nuclear power in the UK.

The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on climate policy, estimates that the UK needs to generate four times as much clean power by 2050, as well as 225 TWh of low-carbon hydrogen to complete its decarbonisation. The Hydrogen Roadmap outlines how nuclear can be a major player - along with renewables - in a green hydrogen future.

It outlines how large-scale and small modular reactors (SMRs) can produce both the power and the heat necessary to produce emissions-free hydrogen. It estimates that 12-13 GW of nuclear reactors of all types could use electrolysis, steam electrolysis using waste heat and thermochemical water splitting to produce 75 TWh of green hydrogen by 2050. The most common method, steam methane reformation, is low cost, but emits 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every one kilogram of hydrogen.

Tom Greatrex, NIA chief executive, said: "Nuclear power should be right at the heart of green hydrogen production, alongside renewable technology. Nuclear reactors offer the innovative solutions we need to decarbonise sectors beyond electricity as part of a robust net-zero mix, starting today and going into the future. We are pleased the government has recognised that potential, and look forward to working with them and other partners to create a strong framework for green hydrogen production."

The NIA notes that, since the main obstacle to green hydrogen is cost, the report identifies immediate steps to encourage nuclear-hydrogen development:

  • Funding for electrolyser research and grants to zero-carbon generators of all kinds, including nuclear, to install electrolysers;
  • Ambitious carbon pricing to make green hydrogen more competitive;
  • Five-year R&D advanced modular reactor funding settlements to support the government’s target of a demonstrator by the early 2030s;
  • Inclusion of nuclear-produced hydrogen in the Net Zero Hydrogen Production Fund and the Renewable Fuels Transport Obligation;
  • Agreement of a new financing model to cut the cost of capital, for new nuclear projects, and thus the cost of electricity for hydrogen production.
The Hydrogen Roadmap follows on from Forty by '50: The Nuclear Roadmap, which set outs the ambition for the industry to produce 40% of the UK’s clean power by 2050.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News