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NNL and DNV partner to explore large-scale nuclear production of hydrogen for UK gas network

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and DNV are partnering to explore the potential of nuclear-derived hydrogen 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, scheduled for 2026.

Part of the Advanced Nuclear Skills and Innovation Campus (ANSIC) pilot, located at NNL’s Preston Laboratory on the Springfield’s nuclear-licensed site, the scheme is funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to promote academic and industrial innovation in Advanced Nuclear Technologies (ANTs).

Converting national and regional natural gas networks to hydrogen could be a powerful decarbonization solution by distributing the gas to millions of individual users across the country, where it can be burnt 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.

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

The collaboration enables both the nuclear and gas sectors to gain a deeper understanding of priorities and assess barriers and next steps on aspects including regulation, safety, siting and economics. A wider range of organizations from the nuclear and gas sectors will be engaged via the two companies’ respective networks, which will help bring together decades of learning and experience.

As part of the ANSIC pilot’s ongoing commitment to help reach net zero, NNL is running three hydrogen workshops, with the first commencing on 30 November 2021. This will develop a common understanding of the subject matter, with the second and final workshops taking place in January and March 2022.

ANTs have the potential to play a major role in delivering net zero, and this scheme would consequently de-risk a future hydrogen gas network conversion programme. ANSIC will allow researchers and innovators to access some of the world’s most progressive nuclear facilities and receive support from technical and operational subject matter experts.

The pathway to 1.5 degrees requires the creation of a robust hydrogen economy. Hydrogen will account for 13% of energy demand by 2050 and crucially it is urgently needed for the decarbonization of hard to electrify sectors. Our forecasts predict that one third of global hydrogen and synthetic-fuel demand by 2050 will be used for industrial heating. We will need to consider multiple pathways to achieve the hydrogen economy, nuclear is one such path.

—Hari Vamadevan, Regional Director, UK & Ireland, Energy Systems, at DNV



This gives the UK great flexibility in energy supply, in contrast to those countries seeking to eliminate nuclear.
The pattern of energy demand is very different to that in the US, with a high winter peak but no summer peak from air conditioning.
The electrification of transport will go some way to smoothing out the peak anyway, as the demand for energy from that sector will be fairly constant, so there will be a smaller proportionate rise in the winter, although of course the absolute figure will remain the same for the extra heating and so on.

Wind peaks in the winter, so at a very theoretical level nuclear baseload and wind for the winter peak load mesh well.

And the present hassles of intermittent lulls, with a couple of years ago a cold still snap of a week or two across Europe almost eliminating wind power can be dealt with by hydrogen/ammonia storage.

Even in such an unfavorable climate as the UK solar has become surprisingly competitive, and land use hassles are pretty much dealt with by the development of agrivoltaics, so that it is not agricultural production or solar, but both working together.

The economics of nuclear are also much improved by the addition of hydrogen production, so that the waste heat issue is turned into a huge plus of hydrogen production.

Nuscale tell us that raising the temperature of their of their waste stream to the 850C needed for hydrogen production takes only 2-3% of the power of their units, and when demand is low one or more of their units can simply switch to hydrogen production.

Rather than being in opposition to nuclear, hydrogen technology increases its potential from being realistically and economically baseload only to able to supply as much of demand up to 100% as is required.

The falling costs of renewables mean that that is not going to happen, but there is nothing at all bad in having as much nuclear at cheap rates and convertible to liquid fuels as needed.


For real progress store power plant carbon


I think that this basically a good idea for the medium term but in the longer term just going full electric using heat pumps for domestic heat and resistant heat for hot water would be better. But keep the hydrogen production for ammonia, other chemicals, and potentially steel, etc.

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