- New report says UK is uniquely placed to start national-scale production of nuclear-derived net zero fuels, helping decarbonise sectors like aviation and shipping
- Clear plan could create thousands of high value jobs and have a game changing impact on UK energy security and net zero targets
The UK has a ‘golden opportunity’ to become a world leader in the production of emissions-free synthetic fuels using nuclear energy, according a new report by energy consultants Equilibrion and the Nuclear Industry Association. The Synthetic Fuels paper outlines how scaling nuclear-derived synthetic fuels on a national level could help Britain decarbonise hard to abate transport sectors to help deliver on energy security and net zero targets.
The transport sector is responsible for almost a third (27%) of global greenhouse gas emissions, with aviation and shipping two of the most challenging areas to decarbonise. The report details how nuclear, as a proven, weather-proof, low carbon energy source, could provide the primary energy needs of the future synthetic fuels market, projected to be worth $600bn globally by 2050.
Synthetic fuels offer a low carbon alternative to traditional fossil fuels like diesel and jet fuel, by relying on carbon dioxide obtained from the environment and low carbon hydrogen feedstock to synthesise fuels. Their carbon neutrality and the unlimited availability of feedstock makes them a viable alternative to fossil fuels but are reliant on large amounts of clean power in the production process.
The paper makes seven recommendations, including the inclusion of nuclear enabled synthetic fuels in the UK Government’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Mandate, guaranteeing it equal status with other technologies such as renewable-produced synthetic fuels and bio-fuels.
Nuclear, unlike other sources of low carbon power, is non-intermittent, and could produce heat and electricity used in all stages at a synthetic fuel production facility, including desalination and fuel synthesis.
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:
“Nuclear energy can play a crucial role in providing the primary energy to support the decarbonisation of sectors which are currently almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels. Nuclear is completely unique in providing low carbon electricity and heat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whatever the weather.
“Immediate action to decarbonise hard to abate industries is now crucial if we are to reach net zero and meet energy security targets. The UK must take this golden opportunity to be a global leader and we stand ready to provide the energy that the market needs.”
Dr Phil Rogers, Director of Equilibrion, said:
“Nuclear enabled synthetic fuels have the potential to provide near zero decarbonisation in sectors that are the hardest to abate, particularly where there is a need for fuels with the same characterisers as traditional fossil versions.
“The transport sector is responsible for close to a third of UK emissions, so the ability to directly replace fossil fuels with zero carbon equivalents, particularly for aviation, shipping and heavy transport, could have a game changing impact on our journey to net zero.
“The UK needs to take this opportunity and outline a pathway to economy-scale production and the near-term actions government and industry need to take to deliver on the vision.”
Notes to editors
- Download the full Synthetic Fuels: The Opportunity for Economy Scale Production of Synthetic Fuels from Nuclear Energy report here.
- The UK Government recognised the role of nuclear energy in its Sustainable Aviation Fuels mandate published in 2021.
- Synthetic fuels are predicted to achieve 42% of the total aviation fuel market by 2050.
- Equilibrion is an energy consultancy focused on the application of nuclear energy for decarbonisation, particularly in sectors which are hard to abate.
About the Nuclear Industry Association
As the trade association for the civil nuclear industry in the UK, the Nuclear Industry Association represents more than 250 companies across the UK’s nuclear supply chain.
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