Sizewell C and hydrogen

Nuclear and hydrogen are two clean technologies that can help us make big reductions in carbon emissions. Nuclear generates always-on low carbon power and for years has provided around 20% of the UK’s electricity. Hydrogen only produces water when it burns and has great potential as a clean fuel for transport, industry, and home heating. 

Nuclear and hydrogen are both big priorities for the Government. They were included in the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the 2020 Energy White Paper.  

While both technologies are vital on their own, at Sizewell C we have an exciting vision to bring them together. 

 

Reliable low carbon power

Nuclear is a great way of producing hydrogen as it generates huge amounts of reliable, low carbon energy. One of the best ways of producing hydrogen is by splitting water molecules using an electrolyser. Using low carbon nuclear energy to power the electrolyser means we can produce so-called green hydrogen which has no carbon emissions. 

At Sizewell C, we are exploring how we can produce and use hydrogen in several ways. Firstly, it could help lower emissions during construction of the power station. Secondly, once Sizewell C is operational, we hope to use some of the heat it generates (alongside electricity) to make hydrogen more efficiently. 

 

Demonstrator project

Sizewell C is launching a demonstrator project to produce hydrogen powered by electricity from neighbouring Sizewell B. Initially, a 2MW electrolyser could potentially produce up to 800kg of hydrogen per day (or c. 290,000 kgs per year). This will be scaled up to meet demand. 

The hydrogen produced could power vehicles and machinery to lower emissions during the construction of Sizewell C. Hydrogen from this demonstrator could also be used for some public transport, such as local buses. 
 

Freeport East

Sizewell C has supported Freeport East which includes a plan to supply hydrogen to the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich. Working with Hutchison Ports and Ryse-Hydrogen, Sizewell C put forward proposals for a hydrogen hub to provide clean fuel for freight, public transport and other uses, including heating. 

Using low carbon energy from Sizewell B and local renewables, transport at the port, including local shipping, could one day be powered by hydrogen instead of diesel. Freeport East was one of eight new Freeports announced by Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his March 2021 Budget. 

Under the Freeport East plans, by 2030, a 1 GW electrolyser would deliver as much as c. 145,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year. That’s enough to power 80,000 cars.
 

Once Sizewell C is operational, heat could be drawn from the power station to make electrolysis even more effective. Heat is already tapped off at nuclear facilities in other parts of the world and provides district heating for homes and businesses. 

 

The Energy Hub

Sizewell C will supply around 6 million homes with low carbon electricity for at least 60 years. It could also become the central source of power for an energy hub. By linking to other low carbon technologies, like hydrogen, it will be able to operate more flexibly and deliver even more value to the energy system.  
 

Watch video: Sizewell C Energy Hub

Other possibilities we are looking at include using heat and power from Sizewell C to drive a Direct Air Capture (DAC) system to remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. The captured carbon dioxide could even be combined with hydrogen to form synthetic fuels. Sizewell C might also one day provide heating to homes and businesses in the surrounding area.  

Our plans for Sizewell C show how nuclear can make an even greater contribution to the UK’s net zero ambitions. As well as generating low carbon electricity for decades to come, it can help kickstart the green technologies of tomorrow.