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Will Sizewell C be carbon negative?

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

A consortium including Sizewell C (SZC), University of Nottingham, Strata Technology, Atkins and Doosan Babcock has completed R&D trials using a lab-based pilot plant in pursuit of using heat from a proposed nuclear power plant in the UK, Sizewell C.

The consortium is now competing for £3m of funding for phase 2 from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Greenhouse Gas Removal innovation competition in which it hopes to construct a demonstration plant.

Below I have highlighted three reasons you should be excited about the DAC project.

Nuclear and Carbon Capture

Credit: @heydedesign from Unsplash

1. Direct Air Capture (DAC) is commercially viable.

DAC has been tabled in the fight against climate change for a while now. However, a “major barrier to developing a significant UK market” has been the costs associated with the technology.

The positive results from the first phase of the trials demonstrate lower costs of removing CO2 at a large scale using “future low-cost, low-carbon heat available from a nuclear power plant”. This means that the technology is now commercially viable.

Sizewell C’s Finance Director, Julia Pyke, said: “Finding a way to bring down the cost of direct air capture is important to our transition to net zero, and powering DAC with heat from Sizewell C has the potential to make the power station carbon negative. This has exciting potential for our fight against climate change and shows how nuclear can bring even more value to our energy system.”

2. Only minor modifications to the current nuclear power plant design are needed.

The current Sizewell C power plant design requires only a “minor modification” in order “to implement cogeneration”, it is reported. The team at SZC “does not expect any significant change to the replication of the design from Hinkley Point C or its safety case at this stage”.

This is positive news as the SZC request for planning permission was submitted in May 2020, with a decision due in 2023. Any significant changes to the design could mean years of delays in gaining permission to proceed.

3. The potential to offset the UK railway transport emissions

The design uses residual heat from Sizewell C to power the DAC plant. The DAC process involves using chemicals to absorb CO2 from large amounts of ambient air. The CO2 is then extracted from the absorbents and used in other applications. Furthermore, it is possible to reuse the original chemicals in further DAC operations.

The experiments so far have been lab scale but have been promising. The project now hopes to complete a 100 tonnes of CO2 per year demonstration plant. The project’s final phase will be to capture 50,000 tonnes of CO2 per year (equivalent to around 10,870 car carbon emissions) by the year 2030.

4. Other power plants could use DAC

The consortium plans to “progressively scale up to capturing 50,000 tonnes CO2/year by 2030”. If the DAC project progresses as planned, it will be ready ahead of the SZC nuclear power, which is forecast to be prepared for operations by the mid-2030s.

As part of the output from the completion of phase 1, “an alternative nuclear (or other) plant” will need to be identified with a heat source capable of sustaining the process to achieve the 2030 target.


The initial results of the recently completed trials on using the heat from Sizewell C to power a Direct Air Capture plant should be exciting to hear for all. It is certainly making its way into the press.

As with any technology at this stage in its development, there are challenges to overcome. However, the consortium’s positivity and plan to achieve a “Megatonne scale” plant by 2030 provide confidence in the process and its application.

As a supporter, anything associated with bringing ‘another string to the bow’ of nuclear energy is always well received. And the positivity around the initial trials gives a sense of realism to the whole thing.

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