DOE’s Hydrogen Program Plan sees potential for nuclear-powered electrolysis

November 17, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

Many regions with peak potential hydrogen demand, as shown in this image created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and reproduced in the Hydrogen Program Plan, are also home to operating nuclear power plants. Image: NREL, The Technical and Economic Potential of the H2@Scale Concept within the United States

The Department of Energy released a Hydrogen Program Plan on November 12 that provides a strategic framework for the agency’s hydrogen research, development, and demonstration activities.

The DOE’s Offices of Nuclear Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, Electricity, and Science, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy are all working on the production, transport, storage, and use of hydrogen in several sectors of the economy and have developed technical and programmatic multi-year plans. The Hydrogen Program Plan coordinates and complements those efforts by presenting a strategic direction that highlights the importance of collaboration both within DOE and with stakeholders in industry, academia, and the states.

Nuclear’s role: Nuclear energy is a potential source of thermal energy to support high-temperature electrolysis. The electrical efficiency of electrolysis increases by up to 25 percent at higher operating temperatures, which translates to lower production costs compared with low-temperature electrolysis, because the thermal energy required is generally less expensive than electrical energy. The Hydrogen Program Plan reflects work published earlier this year by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that analyzes the technical and economic potential for high-temperature electrolysis using operating nuclear power plants as the source of heat and electricity.

A demonstration of high-temperature steam electrolysis is planned at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island plant in Minnesota as part of project announced last year with participation from Idaho National Laboratory, Energy Harbor, and Arizona Public Service.

Quoting: “Hydrogen is an exciting fuel source that has the potential to integrate our nation's energy resources, but to fully recognize its potential across the economy we need to lower costs and see a significant increase in hydrogen supply and demand,” said Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. “This administration is excited by the department-wide efforts and collaborations outlined in this plan that will address these issues and help secure hydrogen as an option in the nation’s energy future.”

Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes added, “For decades, DOE has supported the development of technologies to complement the production of hydrogen fuel from our traditional sources. The RD&D activities outlined in the Plan will contribute to this important DOE-wide effort to support our all-of-the-above energy strategy.”

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