Nuclear Technology / Volume 152 / Number 3 / December 2005 / Pages 266-272
Technical Paper / Fission Reactors
A thermal source for hydrogen production is an attractive utilization of nuclear energy. Hydrogen production from natural gas is a promising method in an early stage of hydrogen society, though hydrogen production with water splitting without carbon dioxide emission is the final goal. Steam methane reforming is a well-known method for producing hydrogen from natural gas. A hydrogen separation membrane makes the reforming temperature much lower than that of the equilibrium condition, and a sodium-cooled fast reactor, which supplies heat at ~500°C, can be used as a heat source for hydrogen production.
In this study, a hydrogen production plant with the membrane reforming method using a sodium-cooled reactor as a thermal source has been designed, and its economic potential is roughly evaluated. The hydrogen production cost is estimated to be about $1.67/kg, achieving the economic target of $1.7/kg. The construction cost is largely shared by the reformers' cost, and it can be decreased using a more efficient hydrogen separation membrane. This shows that steam methane reforming hydrogen production with a sodium-cooled reactor has high economical potential.