DOE Awards $5.7 Million to Universities for Nuclear Energy Research, Including Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $5.7 million under the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) to nine universities for research in the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative and the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative (NHI).
Combined with this announcement, DOE has funded a total of 70 NERI projects since 2005, totaling $38.6 million. In Fiscal Year 2008, DOE’s budget request will include $35.6 million in research that will be awarded to universities through NERI grants—as part of DOE’s Generation IV Nuclear Energy Initiative, the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, and the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative—to further support advanced nuclear energy R&D.
Of the nine awards, two are related to the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative.
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) reviewed an award for a project to optimize heat exchangers. The University of Wisconsin-Madison received an award for an investigation of liquid salts as media for heat transfer from Very High Temperature Reactors (VHTR).
The Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative is based on the premise that nuclear energy offers significant potential for the large scale, emission-free production of hydrogen. The purpose of the DOE’s NHI is to develop candidate hydrogen production methods suitable for use with advanced nuclear reactors.
The NHI program has the following two primary priorities:
Priority 1: Develop thermochemical and high-temperature electrolytic hydrogen production processes and interfaces that are compatible with the thermal output characteristics of Generation IV reactor to produce economically competitive hydrogen.
Priority 2: Develop advanced or alternative production processes to the baseline cycles to assess the potential for higher efficiency or lower cost.
Thermochemical cycles produce hydrogen through a series of chemical reactions resulting in the production of hydrogen and oxygen from water at much lower temperatures than direct thermal decomposition. Energy is supplied as heat in the temperature range necessary to drive the endothermic reactions, generally 750 to 1,000°C or higher.
Hybrid thermochemical cycles include both chemical reaction steps and electrolysis of some chemical compound (not water) that produces hydrogen. Both thermal and electrical energy is required to complete the hybrid cycle. In general, hybrid electrolysis requires less electrical energy than conventional electrolysis of water, according to the DOE.
High-temperature electrolysis (HTE), or steam electrolysis, has the potential for higher efficiency than conventional electrolysis because thermal energy is used to produce high-temperature steam, resulting in a reduction of the required electrical energy.
HTE requires low-cost, efficient electricity and an energy source that provides the highest possible temperatures consistent with materials capabilities. Temperatures up to 950°C are being considered using similar materials and technology to those used in solid-oxide fuel cells.
The NHI has targeted the complete construction of integrated laboratory-scale thermochemical and high-temperature electrolysis hydrogen production systems in FY 2008. Ultimate demonstration of commercial-scale nuclear hydrogen production is targeted for 2019.