Nuclear power could produce as much as one-third of the United Kingdom’s clean hydrogen needs by 2050, posits the Hydrogen Roadmap, a 12-page report recently approved by the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) and released last week by the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA).
The NIC, co-chaired by the British government’s minister for business, energy, and clean growth, and the chairman of the NIA, sets strategic priorities for government-industry collaboration to promote nuclear power in the United Kingdom.
The road to net zero: The report outlines how large-scale and small modular reactors could produce both the power and the heat necessary to produce emissions-free, or “green,” hydrogen. Existing large-scale reactors, it says, could produce green hydrogen today at scale through electrolysis, as could the next generation of gigawatt-scale reactors. Also, according to the report, SMRs, the first unit of which could be deployed within the next 10 years, could unlock possibilities for green hydrogen production near industrial clusters.
The Hydrogen Roadmap estimates that 12–13 GW of dedicated nuclear capacity could produce 75 TWh of green hydrogen by 2050 using electrolysis, steam electrolysis using waste heat, and thermochemical water splitting. The United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee estimates that up to 225 TWh of hydrogen per year will be needed to reach the nation’s net-zero target. Currently, most British hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels.
Stepping it up: Identifying cost as the main obstacle to green hydrogen, the report recommends that the following steps be taken immediately to encourage nuclear-hydrogen development:
■ Funding for electrolyzer research and grants to zero-carbon generators of all kinds, including nuclear, to install electrolyzers.
■ Ambitious carbon pricing to make green hydrogen more competitive.
■ Five-year research and development funding settlements to support the government’s target of an advanced modular reactor 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 capital cost for new nuclear projects, and thus the cost of electricity for hydrogen production.
Testimonials: Commenting on the launch of the report, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the NIA, 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 decarbonize sectors beyond electricity as part of a robust net-zero mix, starting today and going into the future. We are pleased the government has recognized that potential and look forward to working with them and other partners to create a strong framework for green hydrogen production.”
Fiona Rayment, chief science and technology officer at the National Nuclear Laboratory, added, “The transition to a net-zero energy system is an exciting yet significant goal, and none of us should underestimate the scale of the challenge. To enable the deep decarbonization that is required, it is clear that hydrogen will need to play an ever-increasing role. Current and emerging nuclear technology has the flexibility to produce clean, reliable, and cost-competitive energy to address the needs of our industries and markets, whether that is in electricity, heat, or hydrogen. Nuclear-generated ‘green’ hydrogen in particular, alongside other clean energy routes, will enable a plentiful supply to fuel our future economy.”