National Nuclear Laboratory


Thursday 19 May 2022

Funding announced for low carbon hydrogen supply project

The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) today announced that it has been awarded funding by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), through its Net Zero Innovation Portfolio Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 Competition, for a programme of work to demonstrate that nuclear enabled zero carbon hydrogen can be produced at large scale and low cost.

This project aims to unlock a technology combination through demonstration that can economically deliver this ambition to enable a greater rollout of hydrogen solutions, to contribute to the wider net zero energy system through refinery scale operations. Nuclear’s flexibility goes far beyond low-carbon electricity and the British Energy Security Strategy recognises the potential for nuclear power to produce low carbon hydrogen. A UK-enabled advanced modular reactor (AMR) is designed to produce high grade heat that can be used for the production of low carbon hydrogen. High-grade heat from AMRs would be a game-changer in decarbonising a range of industrial applications. Working together as a sector and with UK industry, we can deliver on these benefits: understanding demand, progressing the right hydrogen production technologies and preparing for the future. Delivering on a vision for nuclear clean energy applications, here in the UK and worldwide.

Worldwide studies have shown these thermochemical technologies for nuclear enabled hydrogen production have significant potential. The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) estimates that nuclear could produce 75TWh of green hydrogen by 2050. NNL, Energy Systems Catapult and LucidCatalyst previously produced a ground-breaking modelling report, exploring the cost and performance parameters that would need to be achieved by a range of nuclear technologies in order to meet the need to vastly increase the production of three zero carbon energy vectors – electricity, hydrogen and district heating.

Advanced nuclear technologies have the potential to play a major role delivering net zero, as part of the transition to a low carbon economy. The UK has the skills and capability to ensure that we deliver on a vibrant and successful future industry. This is recognised in the Energy White Paper and the government’s Ten Point Plan, which have signalled a clear intention for development of advanced nuclear technologies (ANTs) in the UK, recognising their potential in delivering the UK’s net zero target.

As part of the transition to a low carbon economy, the UK government has committed to significant investment in the development of advanced modular reactors (AMRs). In July 2021, the government announced plans to explore the potential of high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) to enable an AMR demonstration by the early 2030s, to support net zero by 2050.

Dr Paul Howarth, Chief Executive Officer at the National Nuclear Laboratory, said: “Advanced modular reactors (AMRs), as recognised by UK Government’s Ten Point Plan, operate at higher temperatures of up to 950°C and have the potential to unlock the operation of unique high temperature processes to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen can be used directly or converted into ammonia and synthetic aviation fuels.”

Energy Minister Greg Hands said, “The UK is truly leading the world in hydrogen innovation thanks to the exciting efforts of companies like National Nuclear Laboratory. The government support which they have received today will help to boost the development of hydrogen as the clean, affordable, homegrown superfuel of the future.”