European nuclear trade association Foratom on 4 May released a position paper on nuclear’s role in the generation of low-carbon and hydrogen. “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”, said Yves Desbazeille, Foratom Director General. “Hydrogen is one of the technologies which could help Europe reach its goals. But two challenges remain: producing real low-carbon hydrogen and expanding its use to a broad range of energy intensive sectors that need it.”

Low-carbon nuclear power and heat – as well as renewables – can be used for the generation of decarbonised hydrogen via a electrolysers, said Foratom. The advantage of making use of all low-carbon electricity sources is two-fold. First of all, it will ensure that there is enough hydrogen available at all times as an increasing number of sectors switch to this energy carrier. Secondly, running an electrolyser for longer periods reduces the costs of this technology.

“There are several nuclear-to-hydrogen projects in the pipeline”, added Desbazeille. “Whilst this technology is a viable solution, we have to make sure that the EU puts in place the right policy incentives to expand its development further”. In this respect, Foratom has put forward a series of policy recommendations, which include the following:

  • The positive role which low-carbon nuclear energy can play in the EU’s Hydrogen Strategy should be acknowledged;
  • The classification of hydrogen and guarantees of origin should be based on a detailed life-cycle assessment of the carbon intensity of the source used to produce the hydrogen;
  • In order to ensure rapid development of clean hydrogen projects at a more competitive cost , much more attention should be given to economic aspects and supply reliability as both are key issue for industry;
  • The assessment of full smart system costs including LCOE and LCOH (Hydrogen), including nuclear technologies should be proioritised.
  • Innovation, Research and Development into all low-carbon hydrogen projects should be supported;
  • Previous research into nuclear-produced hydrogen in Europe and at international level should be recognised and details provided on how this can be reflected in the EU hydrogen strategy; and
  • Synergies between the SET Plan actions, Horizon Europe and Euratom R&D programmes in relation to low-carbon hydrogen production should be increased.

"In Foratom's opinion, it is essential that the EU apply a technology neutral approach when it comes to hydrogen projects," the position paper noted. "Given that the ultimate goal is to help sectors to decarbonise, the hydrogen strategy must support all low-carbon projects, regardless of the source of energy used to produce the hydrogen. This is why we favour a categorisation which is CO2 emission-based."