The US Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $22.1 million to 10 industry-led projects to advance nuclear technologies, including two aimed at expanding clean hydrogen production with nuclear energy.
The other projects include efforts to bring a microreactor design closer to deployment, tackle nuclear regulatory hurdles, improve operations of existing reactors, and facilitate new advanced reactor developments.
This funding opportunity is administered by DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). In collaboration with NE, DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office will provide funding and project oversight for the two hydrogen production–related projects that were selected:
General Electric Global Research, Scaled Solid Oxide Co-Electrolysis for Low-Cost Syngas Synthesis from Nuclear Energy. This project will complete key engineering design and demonstration tests to enable cost-competitive, carbon-neutral production of synthetic jet fuel and diesel using nuclear energy from existing light water reactors.
The process consists of two key steps:
Solid oxide co-electrolysis (SOCC) technology developed at GE Research Center (GRC) simultaneously converts carbon dioxide and steam into syngas (H2:CO) from nuclear heat and electricity.
A well-established downstream syngas-to-synfuel conversion process, such as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, converts the syngas to liquid synfuel for a total projected cost of less than $4/gallon.
In addition to developing the conceptual engineering design to couple a pressurized water reactor (PWR) to SOCC syngas plant, this project will demonstrate the new SOCC technology at 50 kW scale in preparation for a subsequent demonstration at 2-5 MW scale, potentially at a nuclear power plant.
Specifically, the team will demonstrate operation of a 50 kW SOCC system at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) using simulated nuclear power to produce syngas at a cost that is expected to be ~30% lower than is possible via alternative renewable power-based approaches. The 50 kW demonstration will prove that high-efficiency syngas production can be achieved at low capital-cost using GRC’s unique thermal-spray-based SOCC technology.
Westinghouse Electric Company, Front-End Engineering Designs and Investigative Studies for Integrating Commercial Electrolysis Hydrogen Production with Selected Light-Water Reactors. Westinghouse and its project partner, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), propose to advance the evaluation of high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) viability using solid-oxide electrolyzer cells (SOECs) for the purpose of commercial scale integration of hydrogen production into an existing light water reactor (LWR) nuclear power plant.
Westinghouse will lead front-end engineering designs (FEEDs) development for nuclear-coupled hydrogen production at specific, multiple US LWR plants. Designs will be developed for both pressurized water reactor (PWR) and boiling water reactor (BWR) technologies, at varying power levels ranging between 20MWe – 500MWe. Evaluations at larger capacities are needed to better understand impacts associated with integrated plants of this size, and to identify potential challenges to scale-up.
Also, as both PWR and BWR designs are deployed across the US nuclear fleet, evaluations using both are needed to understand the differences and create equitable opportunities for nuclear utilization beyond electricity generation.
In addition to the FEEDs being proposed, Westinghouse has chosen to include two special interest areas for investigative study. Westinghouse will also lead multiple licensing impact assessments for the designs developed during the FEEDs and investigative studies efforts.
While hydrogen generation creates additional flex-operating opportunities for nuclear plants, it also creates additional considerations for grid-interconnects and hydrogen end-users. The project will seek to resolve this challenge by demonstrating grid modernization data analysis and decision systems’ ability to enable real-time power transactions with the grid.
The culmination of this program will be a techno-economic assessment (TEA), led by INL, which leverages their expertise and command of such analyses. In addition, a high-level life-cycle emissions assessment will be performed to evaluate the market potential and benefits of the process options and markets being considered. The objective of this task is to evaluate the business case for the flexible nuclear plant options developed by this project.
Other projects. Other project teams selected under this funding opportunity include:
X-energy will complete a preliminary design of a microreactor to advance design elements and bring it closer to commercial deployment.
The Electric Power Research Institute will demonstrate advanced manufacturing of small modular reactor components to support the US supply chain.
3M Company will develop an isotope recovery process to enable commercial deployment of molten salt reactors.
Constellation Energy Generation will improve operational efficiency and flexibility of the current fleet of nuclear reactors.
The last four selected project teams will breakdown regulatory hurdles:
RhinoCorps will create a roadmap to help reactor licensees assess defensive strategies and incorporate modeling and simulation into their security assessment processes.
Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation will develop a blueprint that reduces maintenance costs and outage time for the current fleet of nuclear reactors.
General Atomics will support accelerated fuel testing efforts to license new fuel types needed by advance reactor developers to deploy their technologies.
Terrestrial Energy, USA will submit pre-licensing topical reports to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to advance the development of its molten salt reactors and reduce regulatory risk for advanced reactors.