As part of the Innovating to Net Zero programme, the Energy Systems Catapult has recently published its techno-economic assessment of the potential roles and contribution of nuclear energy in supporting a range different routes to Net Zero by 2050.
A key conclusion of the report is that achieving Net Zero without nuclear, whilst possible, is risky (i.e. in terms of achieving Net Zero by 2050), potentially expensive and would also require significant bio-energy and land use change as well as substantially increasing the already vast quantity of renewable energy required to meet demand. The cost of new nuclear power stations, however, must continue its current downwards trajectory which should be supported by more flexible operation providing additional income streams and fleet deployment.
The report sets out a number of other key conclusions highlighting the potential contribution of current and future generations of nuclear power stations (including small modular reactors and other Advanced Nuclear Technologies) to the low carbon, cost effective production of hydrogen as well as power and district heating.
COVID-19 has further delayed the government’s consultation response on the Nuclear RAB model and its long awaited Energy White Paper. The delay is unfortunate at a time when the energy industry is wanting clear steers and commitments. What is clear is that most see the development of the hydrogen economy as inevitable and essential for the Net Zero targets which the UK has. Any policy framework will need to consider the contribution that nuclear can make to the hydrogen economy.
If nuclear is able to fulfil its cost reduction potential, and contribute to the challenges of decarbonising heat and hydrogen, around 50 GWe of nuclear may be needed by 2050