4 May 2021
Nuclear provides a perfect solution for the generation of large quantities of low-carbon and affordable hydrogen, the European nuclear trade body Foratom said today in a position paper. This, it said, will be key as Europe aims to transform all parts of its economy, including transport and industry. The position paper makes a number of policy recommendations aimed at recognising the contribution nuclear energy can make in decarbonising such areas.
Image from Foratom
Foratom says the EU has set itself the "very ambitious" target of decarbonising its economy by 2050. "Achieving this will require a massive transformation of the energy, industry, transport and building sectors," it says. "Whilst solutions already exist to decarbonise the power sector by 2050, hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as transport and industry remain a challenge."
On 8 July last year, the European Commission adopted the EU Hydrogen Strategy, which sets out how hydrogen can support the decarbonisation of industry, transport, power generation and buildings. The strategy addresses the investments, regulation, market creation, and research and innovation required to enable this. The strategy says that between 2020 and 2024 the European Commission will support the installation of at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU, and the production of up to 1 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen. From 2025 to 2030, there needs to be at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers and the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU. From 2030 to 2050, renewable hydrogen technologies should reach maturity and be deployed at large scale across all hard-to-decarbonise sectors, it says.
The strategy defines 'renewable hydrogen' as "hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water (in an electrolyser, powered by electricity), and with the electricity stemming from renewable sources. It says 'low-carbon hydrogen' "encompasses fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture and electricity-based hydrogen, with significantly reduced full life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to existing hydrogen production." The strategy, however, did not specifically mention nuclear power among low-carbon electricity sources.
Foratom questions whether, given the variable nature of renewable energy sources and the volume of installed capacity needed to provide a continuous supply of electricity to produce this hydrogen, there will be sufficient renewable electricity available to meet demand. In addition, it says this may not be the most cost-effective approach.
"Nuclear will definitely play an important role, even if it is not mentioned," the organisation says in its new position paper, titled Nuclear Hydrogen Production - A Key Low-Carbon Technology for a Decarbonised Europe.