In keeping with the 2050 net zero goals, the UK Government has pushed for the acquisition of a next-generation nuclear reactor to supply energy to the country after a demonstration of its capabilities. The ministers are approving investing £170 million in high-temperature gas reactors (HGTR) in the hopes that they can deliver energy by the early 2030s. If this is implemented, the UK may achieve the best business electricity prices that it has had in decades. The reduction of business electricity costs will not only ease the burden of bills but will also open up new opportunities for growth and expansion.
They recently published a call for evidence to set out the Government’s suggested approach in producing the first advanced modular reactor (AMR) demonstrator. AMRs are typically smaller and more flexible than traditional nuclear power stations. They can also be built at a lower cost. The HGTR can also produce low-carbon hydrogen, which fits the UK Government’s net zero goals.
With the use of these new-generation nuclear reactors, decarbonising the heating industry will be achievable by the 2040s. These generators can put out extremely high temperatures of heat that are capable of providing power and heating to various sectors.
Thirty-seven per cent of the UK carbon emissions come from heat, and a significant proportion of that percentage comes from industrial processes. AMRs can include high-temperature gas reactors (HTGRs), which produce heat between 500 and 950°C. This is enough to significantly cut down emissions from factories that produce cement, glass, paper, and industrial chemicals. This may also result in the best business electricity prices in the country for such innovative industrialists.
Ministers are inviting views from the public and industry on the Government’s goals to explore the HGTRs’ potential for their AMR demonstrations.
Anne Marie Trevelyan, the Minister of State of Energy, said that renewables, like solar and wind, would become a crucial part of the country’s sources of electricity by 2050. However, they will always need stable, low-carbon power from nuclear.
For this reason, they are determined to continue using advanced nuclear technology. AMRs can play a crucial role in driving Britain’s economic growth while being greener at the same time by tackling carbon emissions.
Dame Sue Ion from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering said that the proposal for the AMR and HGTR is excellent news because it shows the massive potential of advanced nuclear power. Moreover, they could also expand on these safely since AMRs are among the safest types of reactors.
Ion surmised that the AMR demonstration is aligned with the strengths of the nation, and in the long run, it is not impossible for the UK to see the potential of the energy to be exported at an international scale.
The Government is keen on supporting various nuclear technologies. They have since announced the testing of an Advanced Nuclear Skills and Innovation Campus, which will be developed by the National Nuclear Laboratory in Preston. It will serve as a hub for innovators, where various industry experts and academics will work together on various projects. Their aim is to develop and commercialise nuclear technologies and make them work for the country.
The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is going to submit a summary of evidence to the Energy Working Group (EWG) that has information on how to address nuclear energy regarding the Green Taxonomy.
The Green Taxonomy is designed to be a common framework that sets the bar for investments; it defines which ones are truly environmentally sustainable and seeks to battle “greenwashing”, which is the exaggerated claim that investment is environmentally friendly when in reality it is not.
Having Green Taxonomy will make it easy for investors and even consumers to pinpoint how much a company has an impact on the environment. This is also an encouragement for more businesses to invest in helping the UK’s net zero goals.
Benefits of AMRs and HTGRs
In a report from The Royal Society published on 7 October 2020, there was a policy briefing on how they could expand the utilisation of nuclear energy to make the most of the produced energy. They also aim to have an energy system with a growing input of intermittent renewable energy.
It also discussed nuclear cogeneration, where heat is used to address difficult-to-decarbonise energy demands like hydrogen production and domestic heating. The heat from civil nuclear reactors can be obtained at two different points for applications that require different levels of heat.
The industry can apply other technologies to nuclear fuels, such as high-temperature cogeneration of hydrogen, direct air capture, sustainable synthetic fuel production, high-temperature industrial process heating, and thermal energy storage. Meanwhile, they can use low-temperature cogeneration in district heating, seawater desalination, and low-temperature industrial process heating.
Like most systems, implementing this sustainable source of energy also has its challenges. Firstly, the economic benefit of widescale nuclear cogeneration is yet to be known. However, if the state can make regulation and licensing of the processes more efficient and reduce construction costs for small modular reactors (SMRs), then it would result in the additional revenue benefits of cogeneration. It could also pave the way for the future of nuclear generation in the UK.
Other issues that are foreseen are those regarding the ownership of the records and also predicting the local and national demand for cogenerated products, like hydrogen and future carbon costs.
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