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U.S. HYDROGEN NUCLEAR POWER

U.S. HYDROGEN NUCLEAR POWER

WNN wrote.

 A project to demonstrate the production of hydrogen in integrated energy systems at US nuclear power plants is one of three selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive a share of USD15 million in its latest announcement of project selectees. At the same time, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has awarded USD15 million in grants to support the development of the country's future nuclear workforce.

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will partner with three electric utilities - Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions, the industry leader for the project; Xcel Energy of Minnesota; and Arizona Public Service - in the project to develop and demonstrate an integrated light water reactor hybrid energy system, which has been selected to receive USD9.2 million of funding for a total cost-shared amount of USD11.5 million. The two-year project will initially demonstrate and deploy a 1-3 MWe low-temperature electrolysis unit to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen.

The first unit is planned for installation in 2020 at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse plant. The hydrogen produced may initially be used to supply public transport fleets in Ohio as well as in commercial industrial applications.

"This first-of-a-kind project represents significant advances for improving the long-term economic competitiveness of the light water reactor industry," Bruce Hallbert, director of DOE's INL-based Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program, said. "They will enable the production of commodities such as hydrogen in addition to electricity from commercial nuclear power plants. This project also accelerates the transition to a national hydrogen economy by contributing to the use of hydrogen as a storage medium for production of electricity, as a zero-emitting transportation fuel, or as a replacement for industrial processes that currently use carbon-emitting sources in hydrogen production."

FirstEnergy Solutions in July rescinded a deactivation notice for the Davis-Besse plant after Ohio passed into law a bill providing clean energy credits to zero-emission power producers.

"Thanks to the support provided to our Ohio nuclear plants by the state of Ohio, we are able to work with DOE to explore new methods of keeping nuclear power plants competitive in any economic environment.," Raymond Lieb, senior vice president of fleet engineering for FirstEnergy Solutions, said. "This is a great opportunity to show that hydrogen can be effectively generated in a carbon-free and safe manner."

Redirecting nuclear energy from electricity to hydrogen production could also help balance the electrical grid with the increasing amount of wind and solar energy on the system, while creating a new value stream. Xcel Energy, which owns Monticello and Prairie Island, has been testing flexible operations at its nuclear plants, and will participate in the project to help determine if hydrogen production can further enhance its carbon-free footprint.

APS' Palo Verde nuclear plant will participate in the demonstration to investigate the potential use of hydrogen generated in the nuclear plant as energy storage for use in reverse-operable electrolysis or peaking gas turbines during times of the day when photovoltaic solar energy sources are unavailable and regional energy reserves are low. Experience from this pilot project will offer valuable insights into methods for flexible transitions between electricity and hydrogen generation missions in solar-dominated electricity markets and demonstrate how hydrogen may be used as energy storage to provide electricity during operating periods when solar is not available, INL said.

The DOE awards are the sixth round of funding under the Office of Nuclear Energy's US Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement, which has now made awards totalling about USD195 million of government funds since the first group of selectees was announced in April 2018. Further quarterly application reviews and selections under the scheme will be conducted over the next three years.

The other projects selected to receive funding in the current round are: a proposal by Blue Wave Capital and Consulting to develop and provide machine learning solutions to improve diagnostics and prognostic capabilities for predictive maintenance in nuclear power plants, which receives USD5.5 million for a total cost-shared total value of USD7 million; and a proposal by TerraPower LLC to develop an advanced fuel qualification methodology report for its Travelling Wave Reactor fuel, for NRC review and approval, which receives USD492,000 of DOE funding for a cost-shared total of USD984,000.

The cost-shared scheme encourages industry-led teams, federal agencies, public and private laboratories, higher educational institutions and the business community to work together to advance US nuclear capabilities.

"Several US companies are working on technologies to make the next generation of nuclear reactors highly competitive, and private-public partnerships will be key to successfully developing innovative domestic nuclear technologies," US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said.

NRC confers awards

The NRC has awarded 45 grants worth a total USD15 million in fiscal 2019 under its Congressional authorisation to provide federal funding opportunities to qualified academic institutions to encourage careers and research in nuclear, mechanical and electrical engineering, health physics, and related fields to meet expected future workforce needs.

Recipients must use the grants for scholarships, fellowships and faculty development.

"Through this programme, NRC has funded multiple research and development, educational and training, and experiential learning projects to enhance academic excellence and to produce a skilled future workforce," the regulator said. More than 5200 students in 35 states and Puerto Rico have been recipients of the NRC programme over its 10-year tenure.

 

Vladimir Vinogradov's picture

Thank Vladimir for the Post!

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Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 17, 2019 4:19 am GMT

Vladimir, the potential here is unlimited. When nuclear generation tops demand on the grid - all night long, for example - energy can be diverted from generating electricity to producing hydrogen by electrolysis. No load-following necessary. 100% clean automotive fuel.

Important to keep an eye on the process, however. "Dirty" hydrogen can be made inexpensively from methane too, and without any consistent way to distinguish the two types, oil companies will try to work their product into the mix. A possible solution would be to tag hydrogen developed at nuclear plants with microquantities of radioactive tracer isotopes, or test hydrogen for trace quantities of methane left over from the steam reforming process.

And of course Shell and Chevron will attempt to displace clean nuclear hydrogen by selling dirty hydrogen at rock-bottom prices. But sooner than later, there will no longer be a market for extracted fossil fuel. Shell could return to its founder's roots, and sell shell-encrusted jewelry boxes to tourists at London's East End. With ocean acidification, after all, it's unlikely any mollusks will survive after 2150 - might give the company an incentive to try to undo some of the damage it's caused.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Sep 16, 2019 10:15 pm GMT

Gotta agree with you here Bob... this could be a good idea. Let's see what cost turns out to be.

However, you did miss a few of the details when you said:

When nuclear generation tops demand on the grid - all night long, for example - energy can be diverted from generating electricity to producing hydrogen by electrolysis. No load-following necessary. 100% clean autmotive fuel.

This pilot project will be run in AZ. There is enough solar there so that nuclear generation will top net load and electricity preices are lowest during midday - so that is when the Palo Verde will be producing hydrogen. Also, the hydrogen will be used as part of an energy storage system - not for automotive fuel.

From the article:

Experience from this pilot project will offer valuable insights into methods for flexible transitions between electricity and hydrogen generation missions in solar-dominated electricity markets and demonstrate how hydrogen may be used as energy storage to provide electricity during operating periods when solar is not available, INL said.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 17, 2019 4:00 am GMT

Agree, Joe. At midday in AZ there would be extra clean energy (assign blame/credit wherever you like) that could be siphoned off to generate H2.

Finding enough fresh water to electrolyze in the Sonoran Desert, however, would be a challenge.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Sep 17, 2019 4:36 am GMT

Palo Verde already uses recycled sewage water ... Perhaps that is what they would use for hydrogen as well??

Found this -

After the treated effluent is circulated about 20 to 25 times, the water can no longer be used for cooling in the plant because of mineral buildup. The water is then pumped to the site’s three evaporations ponds where it naturally evaporates into the atmosphere.

Maybe they can take some of this "dead" water... Not sure. Its a good question/comment.

Bob Wallace's picture
Bob Wallace on Sep 18, 2019 6:57 pm GMT

When nuclear generation tops demand on the grid - all night long, for example - energy can be diverted from generating electricity to producing hydrogen by electrolysis. No load-following necessary. 100% clean autmotive fuel.

Yes, we could use that >$0.10/kWh surplus electricity from reactors to generate hydrogen.  

But it makes more sense to us $0.02/kWh wind and solar electricity.

 

 

Vladimir Vinogradov's picture
Vladimir Vinogradov on Sep 17, 2019 4:56 am GMT

Bob, I don't really believe in the possibility of hydrogen energy. When we burn hydrogen, we increase the temperature in the atmosphere and increase the concentration of water vapor. Both of these factors work on global warming. Long-term electricity storage systems are much smarter, I think.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 17, 2019 10:55 am GMT

Vladimir-- this is interesting as it's the first I've really heard about concern re: hydrogen energy and contributing to global warming. Can you share some resources where I can read up on this issue? Typically I believe the idea is that hydrogen storage would be more efficient and affordable in the long-run, and as such more effective energy storage, but of course this is still a nascent technology that needs full study

Vladimir Vinogradov's picture
Vladimir Vinogradov on Sep 18, 2019 7:14 am GMT

Matt, the main reason for  the global warming is the greenhouse effect. The main reason for  the greenhouse effect is water vapor. By their percentage contribution to the greenhouse effect on Earth the four major gases are:

  • water vapor, 36–70%
  • carbon dioxide, 9–26%
  • methane, 4–9%
  • ozone, 3–7%

The exothermic reaction of hydrogen oxidation: 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O + 483.6 kJ

Burning hydrogen, we get water vapor and heat. Both of these factors increase the greenhouse effect and global warming. More about the greenhouse effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect#targetText=The%20greenhouse%20effect%20is%20the,radiate%20energy%20in%20all%20directions.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 18, 2019 5:09 pm GMT

Vladimir, water vapor is indeed an amplifying feedback contributing to climate change. As the atmosphere warms, water vapor concentration increases. Nonetheless, when we electrolyze water then reverse the process, it adds no additional molecular water mass to the Earth's biosphere. In essence, we're back to where we started.

Obtaining hydrogen by steam-reforming methane (the method currently used to generate 95% of hydrogen used for industrial purposes) is a different story. By burning ancient hydrocarbons extracted from the ground, we're adding not only ~9 billion of tonnes of carbon, but ~3 billion tonnes of hydrogen to the atmosphere each year. Both quickly combine with abundant available oxygen, creating potent greenhouse gases H20 (as vapor) and CO2. Newly-formed CO2 will absorb additional heat from the sun for centuries. In contrast, the lifetime of water vapor in the atmosphere can be measured in days. Whether additional water from fossil fuel extraction increases overall water vapor concentration was a hotly-debated topic in the early 20th century; now any potential increase is conisdered to be minimal.

Similarly, any heat created by exothermic oxidation of manufactured hydrogen will be insignificant compared to heat the Earth receives from the sun - about 11 million times as much heat energy as that generated by all human sources combined.

Vladimir Vinogradov's picture
Vladimir Vinogradov on Sep 19, 2019 4:51 am GMT

"Similarly, any heat created by exothermic oxidation of manufactured hydrogen will be insignificant compared to heat the Earth receives from the sun - about 11 million times as much heat energy as that generated by all human sources combined."

Bob, it means that global warming is nature fact. The impact of humanity is minimal. I agree. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 19, 2019 8:47 pm GMT

Vladimir, you misunderstand my point. Solar energy is striking the Earth at the rate of ~119,400 terawatts. The Earth is radiating all but .17% (202 TW) back out to space, some at visible, most at infrared wavelengths. The difference, energy being absorbed at the rate of 202 trillion joules/second, is the Earth's energy imbalance.

The cause of this imbalance is anything but natural - it's the direct result of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere, primarily CO2, from burning fossil fuels since 1850. The corresponding chemical energy generated, and that generated by nuclear fission, is insignificant in comparison to retained solar energy.

Bob Wallace's picture
Bob Wallace on Sep 20, 2019 9:37 pm GMT

Bob M,

Yes, the problem is heat blocking.  Not the heat generated by burning fossil fuels or from nuclear reactors, those are very minor inputs.  The Earth receives an enormous amount of energy every minute of the day from the Sun. 

Nuclear reactors (and coal/gas) plants do produce water vapor which is put into the atmophere but that has only a localized impact on atmospheric water vapor levels.

The amount of water vapor the atmosphere will hold is determined by air temperature.  Once we reach saturation point any extra will be percipitated out.  

And we're now getting a first hand experience with warmer air holding more water.  Rains happen when warm air cools.  And we're watching extreme rains grow and grow and grow.

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Wallace's picture
Bob Wallace on Sep 16, 2019 8:48 pm GMT

Advanced straw-grasping.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 16, 2019 10:01 pm GMT

"This first-of-a-kind project represents significant advances for improving the long-term economic competitiveness of the light water reactor industry," Bruce Hallbert, director of DOE's INL-based Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program, said. "They will enable the production of commodities such as hydrogen in addition to electricity from commercial nuclear power plants.

Clean-generated hydrogen would be a game changer, as the natural gas usage in buildings is one of the most difficult areas of the energy sector to decarbonize-- but the hydrogen could be inserted straight into those same pipelines and potentially be the path of least resistence. Exciting to see where these pilots may go

Bob Wallace's picture
Bob Wallace on Sep 18, 2019 7:07 pm GMT

Hydrogen is a tiny molecule.  Many of our older gas distribution systems are already badly leaking larger molecule natural gas.  There's a good chance that our loss rates would be high and we'd see a lot of buildings go BOOM!.

Additionally, hydrogen exposure causes some metals to become brittle.

Clean hydrogen could be stored in large amounts in underground caverns and used for 'the last percent' of generation on renewable grids.  Those few times when wind and solar under perform for several days in a row.  Storing a few days at paid off CCNG plants could be a very workable solution for our dispatchable generation needs.

Clean hydrogen can also replace metallurgical coal in producing steel.  

And clean hydrogen can be further processed to create ammonia for fertilizer and other needs.

 

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