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JISEA: nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems can reduce GHG from industry, produce fuels and support the power system

Nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems (N-R HESs) can enable low-carbon, on-demand electricity while providing reduced-emission thermal energy for industrial processes. N-R HES systems are managed by a single entity that link a nuclear reactor that generates heat, a thermal power cycle for heat-to-electricity conversion, at least one renewable energy source, and an industrial process that uses thermal and/or electrical energy.

However, the economic feasibility of these systems may depend on future natural gas prices, electricity market structures, and clean energy incentives. A series of new reports from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) examines various hybrid system configurations to provide a basis to identify opportunities for clean energy use and examine the most economically viable configurations.

N-R HESs are physically coupled facilities that include both nuclear and renewable energy sources and produce electricity and another product such as a fuel, thermal energy, hydrogen, and desalinated water. Energy and materials flows among energy production and delivery systems are dynamically integrated so that the production rate of each product can be varied.

In one report, Generation and Use of Thermal Energy in the US Industrial Sector and Opportunities to Reduce its Carbon Emissions, researchers from INL and the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) identify key greenhouse gas (GHG) emission sources in the industrial sector and propose low-emitting alternatives using targeted, process-level analysis of industrial heat requirements.

The report examines emissions generated during process heat generation. The study focuses on the 14 industries with the largest emissions as reported under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program in 2014.

Approximately 960 plants from those industries represent less than one half of one percent of all manufacturing in the US, but they emit nearly 25% of all industrial sector emissions—5% of total US GHG emissions in 2014.

The report also identifies non-GHG-emitting thermal energy sources that could be used to generate heat without emissions. Those potential sources include small modular nuclear reactors, solar heat for industrial processes, and geothermal heat. The report identifies potential opportunities for each source, identifies implementation challenges, and proposes analyses to identify approaches to overcome the challenges.

In a second report, Status on the Component Models Developed in the Modelica Framework: High-Temperature Steam Electrolysis Plant & Gas Turbine Power Plant, INL details a modeling and simulation framework to assess the technical and economic viability of an N-R HES. INL, with support from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, developed a dynamic, physics-based modeling capability of N-R HESs using the Modelica programming language.

The report presents details on newly developed high-temperature steam electrolysis (for hydrogen production) and gas turbine power plant subsystems. Simulations of several case studies show that the suggested control scheme could maintain satisfactory plant operations even under rapid variations in net load. The study finds that the N-R HESs modeled could provide operational flexibility to participate in energy management at the utility scale by dynamically optimizing the use of excess plant capacity.

In a third report, The Economic Potential of Three Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems Providing Thermal Energy to Industry, NREL researchers explore the economics of an N-R HES that sells a thermal product (steam or a high-temperature heat transfer fluid) to one or more industrial customers. Under each scenario examined, the economically optimal system configuration includes a nuclear reactor generating a thermal product such as steam or a heat transfer fluid—a configuration that can economically reduce GHG emissions from industry.

In addition, configurations that include a thermal power cycle can support resource adequacy for the electricity grid while maximizing production of the thermal energy product if the markets sufficiently incentivize that option.

Together, these three reports indicate nuclear renewable hybrid energy systems can reduce industrial emissions and support the power system.

The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis is operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, on behalf of the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.


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The nuclear-renewable hybrid system is the only sustainable energy system we can make before year 2035 on this planet. Keep the current fission nuclear power running and replace oil, coal and gas with more wind and solar. Use sustainability mandates to shot down the fossils. Use batteries, hydrogen and heat sinks to power thermal power plants to deal with renewable intermittencies. That solves the global warming problem for this planet.

However, to expand sentient life into the rest of our solar system and beyond, be it our species or a bioengineered enhanced version of homo sapiens or be it sentient robotic AI life or a hybrid of any of that, we need to master and control fusion nuclear. Renewables are no good far away from any star so we need to create our own mini stars that we can control and that is fusion reactors.

Unfortunately, we have still not made a viable fusion reactor design that makes more energy than it consumes and that can burn for years between its maintenance shutdowns. It will come we just need to invest more in making it happen. Hopefully, good and capable people like Musk or Bezos will show fusion energy a little love when they think the time is right for that technology. We may still need faster supercomputers to simulate how we need to design these reactors to effectively control the plasma in these reactors. There is an interesting story on the topic linked below.


High temperature hydrolysis of steam to hydrogen and O2 appears to have a good future. The cogeneration of heat is a natural, but both require a long development period. The energy park idea very good, but again requires custom engineering and long sustained commitments. Not that this is a show stopper, just don't expect quick results.

It may be that the grid loses its' importance for energy as hydrogen and natural gas become the champions for low cost energy. The fuel is mostly green and available with an easy distribution system that is very durable and easy to accommodate variances in power demand. Pumping upgraded digester gas within the present pipeline is extremely potent energy for environmental needs and will work to magnify NG green benefit/rating. Same for pumping more biofuel into the fuel market.

So, this post is an analysis of long term value of possible nuclear hybrid system. Just saying the expert analysis has not adapted a one size fits all needs to our energy demands and regulating the heavy power users to offshore will not help the environment. The U.S. has a heavy regulatory burden as well as high labor costs. We do need to have the cheapest and most abundant power to build a foundation for competing business. It's not just a race to crush energy use at all costs. Instead we need to adapt cost effective improvements upon a guaranteed timeline and to cutoff all attempts to thwart change per crony capitalism or to exploit the need per political opportunity. Fanaticism is a horrible method to construct change. Mob rule is very corrosive and mostly ignorant of reality. Some that I know of just enjoy creating chaos and love that they now have a licence to vent anger and break stuff. Things that normally get you arrested, but now rank the action as civil servant of importance. Currently, one can gain much popularity by acting in a most disrespectful and irresponsible fashion. Kind of like the 60's when unrest just an excuse to break the rule book and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy with little responsibility. It is odd the historical take on that period. It's nothing like I witnessed or observed. History seems to be distorted by authors desires for it to be so.


Fusion reactor is the one everybody dreams about. But development vague since no leadership and commitmet Opengamer style. Stelator project was very promising but needs manyfold fund injection, speed and relentles effort.
More realistic things are happening within fission under Russian (!) leadership. They have been developing very long time fast neutron reactors (55 yers). More or less it was soviet burocratic style development with unnecessary military secrecy. Russian Sodium fast neutron reactors are in operation but they are not economicaly viable. Recently Rosatom approved Brest-OD-300 reactor construction with UN fuel and lead cooling cycle. Why it is so interesting, new and important? First of all Uraniu Nitride fuel provides possibility spend fuel be reprocessed by enrichment indefinite number of times therefore practicaly no nuclear waist. In that case Uranium utilization increases thousand fold and even existing nuclear waist could be recycled.
Secondly lead cooling cycle eliminates possibility of ovrheated reformed steam blast. All bigg nuclear accidents occured due to that phisical reason. Lead cooled reactor accident risk limited to the loss of reactor itself without effecting enviroment.
Main question remains - is this economical and can compete with coal? Very difficult to answer. In case make licencing smarter and better the construction cost of nuclear could be redueced in time and financialy. The thing is that to fight established burocrats very risky bussines and no businessman wants to invest taking into account public opinion. The hope was modular reactor licencing procedure applicable for the product type. In that case reactors could be mass produced without involving individual case licencing. But seems to me idea has not received necessary support.

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I have followed the news about fusion nuclear since elementary school. I am now convinced that better computers is what is needed to both simulate a viable fusion reactor design but also needed to monitor and predict plasma behavior in real time and make adjustments in real time to the magnetic fields so that the plasma stays stable.

We have not succeeded in fusion reactors so far because we do not have the needed computer power yet. However, we are getting there fast now. 10 more years or so and we can computer simulate a fusion reactor that will work. At that time Musk or Bezos or another philanthropic multi-billionaire will get into it and build it. Private people are better at getting things done than bureaucratic government organization that may not have a budget after the next election so I think that fusion power will see the day by a private effort rather than a government effort.


Even if plasma fusion works - will it be economic due to anticipated tremendous investment costs? It is worth studding such kind of things but it remains pure science as it was almost 30 years ago after my graduation nuclear plasma engineering. At that time some professors where confident that solution will be within automation. Prediction techniques and formulas could be implemented in analoge ir digital way. But some were more pessimistic believing only in artificial gravity confinement.


Using heat for more efficient hydrogen production with CO2 from power plants would reuse carbon and lower emissions.

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Computer simulations have come a long way. For example, nuclear weapons do no longer need to be test blown to see if they still work. That can be simulated with extreme accuracy today. We need to make the same kind of simulations for fusion reactor designs. Develop the reactor on “paper” and then computer simulate it to see if it works. Make modifications if it does not work and simulate again. When it works in the simulation estimate how much it will cost to build. If it costs too much develop it further and make new simulations and adjustments. When we finally have something that works in the simulation and that is estimated to be economic then build it.
Progress in computing power is what is making self-driving cars possible now. We could not build a self driving car just a few years back. Just a few years back the needed computer for the self-driving car would have been too big and consumed too much power to be used in a car. Now Tesla can have a shoebox sized super computer that can do 24 Teraflops using just 250 watt. Nuclear fusion is much more computing intensive. However, in 10 years we will have the computational power that it takes to make an economic and functioning design before we build it in the real world.

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