A new report highlights the “sizeable contribution” that nuclear-produced hydrogen, using electrolyzer technology, could have in the development of the hydrogen economy.
It goes on to caution though that the realisation of those benefits will depend on the adoption of technology-neutral policies which “do not discriminate against nuclear power.”
The authors say the study makes a clear case for technology-neutrality in policies designed to boost the clean hydrogen sector, which would acknowledge that both renewable energy and nuclear power are low-carbon sources of hydrogen production and should be treated equally.
The research, titled ‘On the Role of Nuclear Power in the Development of a European Hydrogen Economy’, was published by the New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI) today (16 December).
It concludes that using nuclear power to produce hydrogen has several advantages compared to using intermittent renewables.
It finds that per unit of installed electrolyser capacity, nuclear power can produce 5.45 and 2.23 times as much clean hydrogen as solar and wind power, respectively. The report highlights that the land area required to produce hydrogen using nuclear power is considerably lower than that required by renewable energy sources.
Using a hypothetical example it demonstrates that an offshore wind farm would require 1,400 times as much land area to produce as much hydrogen as a traditional GW-scale nuclear power plant.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Yeo, Chairman of NNWI, said: “This report shows how using nuclear power rather than intermittent renewable energy to produce hydrogen allows electrolyser technology to operate at a far higher capacity factor and so provide a stronger stimulus to the development of a robust hydrogen economy. Choosing nuclear is a no brainer for any government wanting to ramp up hydrogen production quickly.”
The new report also explores the possible future development of EU hydrogen policy, taking into consideration the European Commission’s ‘A Hydrogen Strategy for a Climate-Neutral Europe’ published in July 2020.
It states that the EU’s decision to set its long-term aim on purely ‘renewable hydrogen’ production, at the expense of other ‘low-carbon’ sources of production such as nuclear power, may also delay investment in the associated infrastructure required by a broad-based hydrogen economy.
Yeo adds: “Nuclear power could play a significant role in the near-term development of the hydrogen market.
“The report indicates that based on the global fall in nuclear production due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spare capacity in Europe could be harnessed to produce more than 286,000 tonnes of clean hydrogen at relatively low cost, which could cut CO2 emissions by 2.8 million tonnes a year, compared with the widely-used natural gas method”.
The report’s key conclusions say that:
Hydrogen can be a vital tool in the decarbonisation of energy systems, offering many sectors and subsectors a means by which to eliminate their emissions, if its own production can be comprehensively decarbonised;
The EU strategy favours renewable hydrogen as a long-term desired goal with limited commitment to other forms of low carbon hydrogen;
However, nuclear-produced hydrogen would bring multiple benefits to the development of the European hydrogen system, as acknowledged by the French national hydrogen strategy, which sees a clear and valuable role for nuclear-produced hydrogen;
The global pandemic provides an opportunity to use the spare capacity of nuclear power to produce hydrogen and accelerate the development of a European hydrogen economy.
NNWI is an industry supported think-tank, focused on the international development of nuclear energy as a means for governments to safeguard their long-term sustainable energy needs. It believes that nuclear is vital to achieving binding Paris Climate Agreement objectives and tackling the challenge of climate change.