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What happened at COP27, and what does it mean for advanced nuclear?

06 December 2022

The world has changed quite dramatically, since COP26 only one year ago, and the geopolitical realities which have come about with the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cast a shadow over COP27.

A major headline, in light of these realities, was the prominence of the fossil fuel lobby at COP27, viewing it as an opportunity to present natural gas as a climate solution. 

Despite this, the summit saw the supply-side agenda receive greater attention than ever before, reflecting the pace of the energy transition. Coupled with calls for the urgent phase-out of all fossil fuels by leading countries, and reaffirming the commitment to 1.5C, this did cut through and send a message to investors to reflect that despite short term challenges, there remains a clear direction of travel. This was – in the end – a positive, and this message to investors about the future of energy will remain to be critical to our decarbonisation efforts. 

Coupled with what many are seeing as the headline agreement, the agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters, this COP27 “moves us forward,” (so said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary).

However, the real and complex challenges in tackling climate change, as exposed by COP27, demonstrate the need for new solutions, to provide a path to success and enliven the push for emission reductions. Further substantial deployment of advanced nuclear, through small and advanced modular reactors (SMR/AMR) like U-Battery, can deliver a significant boost in low-emission energy production, reducing reliance on carbon capture or the extraction and burning of gas, a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

One of our favourite contributions to the debate at COP27 was from Kirsty Gogan, the Founder and Managing Director at TerraPraxis, who recognised that building nuclear reactors on or near fossil fuel plants “could be the largest carbon reduction opportunity on the planet”. Like us, Kirsty believes that the levels of innovation present in the nuclear sector, and the multiple use cases of AMRs, from industrial decarbonisation to grid applications and hydrogen production, have enabled different conversations on the role of advanced nuclear technologies, and their huge potential to accelerate the transition to a net zero emissions economy.

At U-Battery, this is exactly the sort of conversation we want to hear more of, and to be a part of. Advanced nuclear technologies including our U-Battery module differ from conventional reactors, and offer a new solution for harder to decarbonise sectors, like heavy industry, thanks to its small footprint and its output, meaning it can be locally embedded and can be constructed modularly, meaning many of the elements can be fabricated in factories and assembled on site.

Energy & Decarbonisation theme days

In our pre-COP blog, we looked forward to Energy Day and Decarbonisation Day. 

We were pleased to see Hydrogen playing a key role in discussions on Energy Day. 

Hydrogen is a perfect solution for fuel-switching in hard-to-abate sectors, but it is not yet a ‘clean’ solution; the vast majority of hydrogen production is currently fossil fuelled.

On Energy Day, the World Bank formally created a new global initiative to boost the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen. The Hydrogen for Development Partnership will allocate finance for low-carbon hydrogen production and distribution projects and facilitate knowledge sharing to increase production. This initiative is aimed at developing countries, where energy infrastructure may be limited. This a perfect environment for an off-grid modular reactor like a U-Battery to provide local, low-carbon hydrogen.

On Decarbonisation Day, a Breakthrough Agenda to decarbonise power, transport and crucially, steel was agreed between countries responsible for more than 50% of global GDP. The agenda will develop a common definition for low or near-zero emission steel and encourage final investment decisions on low-carbon steel production plants.

Nigel Topping, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the UK said, “The Breakthrough Agenda is the largest ever collaborative effort to drive down the cost of cutting emissions across power, transport, steel.” Decarbonisation of heavy industry is vital to accelerating clean energy transitions quickly enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and advanced nuclear is the most efficient and affordable way of delivering industrial decarbonisation.

U-Battery’s high temperature, 710°c output can generate process heat at a much higher temperature  because we use high temperature gas reactor technology. This makes U-Battery an ideal and sustainable solution for difficult to decarbonise industrial processes with high heat demand, ensuring industries like steel have a sustainable pathway to continued low-carbon operations.

COP28

Attentions now turn to COP28, at which we would be supportive of further discussions. We would like to see how advanced nuclear technologies will play a critical role across the remainder of the decade – we can achieve new advanced nuclear, which can have a meaningful impact on carbon emissions by 2050 if the opportunity is realised. (U-Battery plans to complete our first of a kind reactor in 2028, and by the 2030s a fleet could be helping to decarbonise industry and our economy).

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About U-Battery

U-Battery is an advanced/small modular reactor, capable of providing a low-carbon, cost-effective, locally embedded and reliable source of power and heat for energy intensive industry and remote locations. It is being developed by Urenco in collaboration with a number of supporting organisations and has received funding from the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's Energy Innovation Portfolio.

Rebecca Astles, Urenco

T: +44 (0)1753 660660
E: enquiries@u-battery.com

James Watson, Madano (UK)

T: T: +44 (0) 78 0939 0666
E: james.watson@madano.com

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