Nuclear Technology / Volume 178 / Number 1 / April 2012 / Pages 66-82
Technical Paper / Safety and Technology of Nuclear Hydrogen Production, Control, and Management / Nuclear Hydrogen Production
In the future the world may have large stranded resources of low-cost wind and solar electricity. Renewable electricity production does not match demand, and production is far from major cities. The coupling of nuclear energy with renewables may enable full utilization of nuclear and renewable facilities to meet local electricity demands and export pipeline hydrogen for liquid fuels, fertilizer, and metals production. Renewables would produce electricity at full capacity in large quantities. The base-load nuclear plants would match electricity production with demand by varying the steam used for electricity versus hydrogen production. High-temperature electrolysis (HTE) would produce hydrogen from water using (a) steam from nuclear plants and (b) electricity from nuclear plants and renewables. During times of peak electricity demand, the HTE cells would operate in reverse fuel cell mode to produce power, substituting for gas turbines that are used for very few hours per year and that thus have very high electricity costs. The important net hydrogen production would be shipped by pipeline to customers. Local hydrogen storage would enable full utilization of long-distance pipeline capacity with variable production. The electricity and hydrogen production were simulated with real load and wind data to understand under what conditions such systems are economic. The parametric case study uses a wind-nuclear system in North Dakota with hydrogen exported to the Chicago refinery market. North Dakota has some of the best wind conditions in the United States and thus potentially low-cost wind. The methodology allows assessments with different economic and technical assumptions - including what electrolyzer characteristics are most important for economic viability.