The future of nuclear energy is in cogeneration, according to a policy briefing released on October 7 by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society. (The equivalent of the United States’ National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, founded in 1660, is the oldest scientific institution in continuous existence.)
Cogeneration, the briefing explains, occurs when the heat produced by a nuclear power plant is used not only to generate electricity, but also to meet such energy demands as domestic heating and hydrogen production. It also allows a plant to be used more flexibly, switching between electricity generation and cogeneration applications.
From the briefing: “A range of options for cogeneration exist, using either low- or high-temperature heat,” states the briefing, titled Nuclear Cogeneration: Civil Nuclear Energy in a Low-Carbon Future. “For low-temperature heat, space heating, notably via district heating, holds potential. Desalination of water is also of interest, though not currently in great demand in the U.K. High-temperature heat from advanced reactors would introduce an interesting set of decarbonizing strategies, not least in the production of low-carbon hydrogen. Whilst this would represent an untested approach to hydrogen production, the practicality, synergy, and costs appear to be attractive.”