IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-The US Department of Energy has approved over $10 million in funding to help demonstrate how a nuclear power plant can make hydrogen in a way that could transform the nuclear energy industry.
The Idaho National Laboratory will work with Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy on a system that uses a nuclear plant's steam and electricity to split water. The resulting hydrogen would be used at the power plant, but it could eventually be sold to other industries.
The new project is the first of its kind to pair a commerical electricity generator with high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) technology. Originally announced in October, the project is a collaboration between DOE's Nuclear Energy and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offices.
“This is a game-changer for both nuclear energy and carbon-free hydrogen production for numerous industries,” said Richard Boardman, national technical lead for the DOE Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program’s Flexible Plant Operations and Generation Pathway. “It offers a view of the energy structures of the future, which will integrate systems to maximize energy use, generator profitability and grid reliability all while minimizing carbon emissions.”
The project will demonstrate HTSE using heat and electricity from one of Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants, likely the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station. Steam electrolysis can be a very efficient process in specific applications, and it relies on high temperature to split water and produce hydrogen.
Analysts say hydrogen could help de-carbonize major energy sectors.
“Holistic integration of the energy system will involve contributions from electrical, thermal and chemical networks, as well as greater utilization of energy storage at various scales,” said Boardman. “That’s how the commercial nuclear power industry can provide reliable, sustainable, low-emission and affordable energy and energy products to its customers.”