The role of nuclear power in the production of hydrogen for future energy systems is set to be explored in depth by a new working group of experts in the sector.

The think tank, the Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen Working Group, has been set up by the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) to assess opportunities to utilise nuclear thermal heat and electricity to produce zero-carbon hydrogen.

If successful, this move would contribute significantly to the UK target of net zero on carbon emissions by 2050.

Celia Greaves, CEO of the UK HFCA, said: “Hydrogen is too important a part of the UK’s journey to net zero for us to let up. The UK HFCA will continue to do all it can, leading co-ordination with relevant groups to ensure the Government receives consistent, practical, and expert advice.”

She added: “Nuclear power plants can produce hydrogen through a variety of methods that would greatly reduce carbon emissions while taking advantage of the constant thermal energy and electricity it reliably provides.

“In future, we could see nuclear power plants functioning as part of an energy system that is very different from the one that existed during the construction of the nuclear plants currently in use.”

Including leading academics, experts from the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Burges Salmon and energy supply service Petrofac, members of the new working group will act together to continue to explore ways to optimise and advance the role of nuclear enabled hydrogen.  

Allan Simpson, Chair of the group and Technical Lead at the NNL, is a specialist in low-cost hydrogen production.

He said: “We will look at evidence-based advice to widen the understanding of the role of nuclear hydrogen across the energy system, including in buildings, transport and industry, as well as specific ways to remove barriers, support net zero objectives and accelerate use.”

Last year, the NNL and DNV partnered to explore the potential of nuclear to support the conversion of UK gas networks to hydrogen.

The Nuclear Derived Hydrogen to Gas Networks collaboration is set to provide deeper evidence to support key up-coming government policy decisions on the role of hydrogen in buildings and for heating and will be fed into the work of the UK HFCA working group going forward.

He added: “Converting national and regional natural gas networks to hydrogen could be a powerful decarbonisation solution, by distributing the hydrogen to millions of individual users across the country, where it can be converted to power and heat without releasing carbon dioxide.

“This will enable consumers to continue using gas in homes, businesses, and industry, in an effective way that is net zero compliant.

“To successfully achieve this transition, large quantities of hydrogen would be needed, and the ability of nuclear to drive production at gigawatt scale could be of great value. This project is a key step in bringing nuclear enabled hydrogen into the public domain, demonstrating that a UK hydrogen network could have a wider range of options for hydrogen supply.”

UK HFCA launches new think tank to advance the role of nuclear in hydrogen production