Next gen nuclear capacity linked to hydrogen key to net zero

Solar energy panels, nuclear power plant and electricity pylon at sunset

The UK needs large-scale next generation nuclear capacity linked to hydrogen production to be sure of hitting its net zero target, according to the Energy Systems Catapult.

On 18 June, it published Nuclear for Net Zero, assessing the potential roles and contribution of nuclear energy in supporting a range of decarbonisation pathways to hit the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions goal. While net zero is possible without nuclear, the Catapult warned it is risking and added that relying on wind power alone will not be enough.

The Catapult found a credible path available to realise significant nuclear cost reduction delivering potentially lower costs and risks association with achieving net zero. This would involve using advanced Gen IV high-temperature nuclear plants together with hydrogen production, able to switch between power generation and efficient hydrogen to supply industry, heavy road transport and marine freight. This path would also see an expanded role for new Hinkley Point C-type Generation III+ nuclear reactors for power generation and SMR deployed with city-scale District Heating Networks to supply cost-effective low carbon heat for urban homes and businesses.

Based on this, the Catapult mapped out a policy approach for nuclear involving a commitment of a further 10GWe of additional new Gen III+ reactor capacity, beyond Hinkley Point C’s 3.2GWe. In parallel, it would see support for stage-gated development programmes for UK deployment of SMR and advanced Gen IV reactors over the next five years while, should nuclear prove able to fulfil its cost reduction potential and contribute to the challenges of decarbonising heat and hydrogen, around 50GWe of nuclear could be required by 2050.

Energy Systems Catapult