Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Response by the Memorandum submitted by the Nuclear Industry Association

  The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) is the trade association and representative voice of Britain's civil nuclear industry. It represents over 120 companies including the operators of the nuclear power stations, those engaged in decommissioning, waste management, nuclear liabilities management and all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear equipment suppliers, engineering and construction firms, nuclear research organisations, and legal, financial and consultancy companies. Among NIA's members are the principal nuclear power station operators—as well as companies engaged as contractors and manufacturers in the forefront of nuclear technology.

  We have confined our responses to the contribution that nuclear can make to the reduction of carbon emissions from transport. Given the large and expanding proportion of carbon dioxide emissions that come from the transport sector it is vital that action is taken to reduce emissions in this area and the electricity sector in general and nuclear in particular have a valuable role to play in this.

  The most direct way in which the electricity sector can help is in powering electric vehicles as the emissions from the electricity used to power them are lower than those that would be emitted by an equivalent sized petrol driven car. This effect is enhanced if the low carbon proportion of the UK's electricity generation is expanded.

  The second area where nuclear has a role to play in the development of the hydrogen economy. Hydrogen powered vehicles in operation produce no emissions other than water, however they only reduce carbon dioxide emissions if the hydrogen has been produced by low carbon means. Most commercially available hydrogen is produced by steam reformation of methane, an energy intensive process which releases large quantities of carbon dioxide. For the hydrogen economy to have any beneficial effect in reducing the UK's carbon emissions from transport it must be made by carbon free means, either by electrolysis or thermal processing of water. Nuclear has the potential to help in both areas. If the electrolysis route is taken then the UK's electricity consumption will rise markedly and this expansion must be supplied from low carbon sources. Nuclear provides high capacity continuous supply of electricity. If a nuclear power station was connected to an electrolysis plant it could supply electricity to the grid at peak demand times and make hydrogen with the off peak electricity. In addition many of the next generation of nuclear power plants have coolant temperatures high enough to thermally split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Such a plant could cogenerate hydrogen and electricity simultaneously in normal operation with no carbon emissions.

  For these reasons we believe that the committee should recognise the role that the low carbon electricity generating sector can play in reducing carbon emissions from the UK's transport sector.

February 2006

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