A think tank established by the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) will assess opportunities to advance the role of nuclear power to produce zero-carbon hydrogen.

Named the Nuclear Enabled Hydrogen Working Group, it aims to utilise nuclear thermal heat and electricity to contribute to the UK target of net zero on carbon emissions by 2050. 

Emphasising the importance of hydrogen’s role in the UK’s journey to net zero, Celia Greaves, CEO, UK HFCA, said that the organisation will continue to lead coordination with relevant groups to ensure the Government receives advice around the clean fuel. 

“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,” she added. 

Greaves believes that – in the future – society could see nuclear power plants melding with sustainable energy generation methods, forming a system that is ‘very different’ from the one that existed when the plants were first established. 

The group will be comprised of academics and experts from the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Burges Salmon and Petrofac, focusing on understanding the role of nuclear hydrogen across the energy system including in buildings, transport, industry, and supporting net zero objectives. 

A relevant initiative was supported last year by the NNL and energy classification society DNV, which partnered to explore the potential of nuclear in the conversion of UK gas networks to hydrogen. 

With the Nuclear Derived Hydrogen to Gas Networks collaboration leading to the potential for further evidence for nuclear powered hydrogen production, Allan Simpson, Chair of the group, Technical Lead, NNL, said that conversion of gas networks could be a powerful decarbonisation solution. 

Although not a renewable energy source, nuclear power is carbon emissions-free and – according to the International Energy Association (IEA) – over the past 50 years the use of nuclear power has reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by over 60 gigatonnes. 

To achieve a meaningful energy transition, large quantities of hydrogen will be needed and the ability of nuclear to drive gigawatt scale production could be a way to accelerate industry’s way to a greener future.