Nuclear is up to the challenge of energy storage

August 20, 2020, 11:54AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is asking for input on an Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC) Draft Roadmap and Request for Information (RFI) and recently extended the response deadline to August 31. While there is no “N” for nuclear in “ESGC,” nuclear is definitely part of the DOE’s plan for future energy storage technologies and integrated energy systems designed to improve the efficiency and reliability of U.S. energy markets. In fact, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee has called for $4 million in the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget to support energy storage.

INL leads the way: Idaho National Laboratory is leading the integrated energy systems research of the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and that research “seeks to maximize energy utilization, generator profitability, and grid reliability and resilience through novel systems integration and process design, using nuclear energy resources across all energy sectors in coordination with other generators on the grid,” according to Shannon Bragg-Sitton, who works at INL as both the Integrated Energy Systems Lead for Nuclear Science and Technology as well as the National Technical Director, Integrated Energy Systems and DOE-NE Crosscutting Technology Development.


The deployment flexibility gained by energy storage is key to integrated energy systems. “Energy storage systems—including electrical, thermal, and chemical storage options—are expected to play a key role in managing variable grid energy demands using both variable renewable generators and thermal generators, such as nuclear energy, that have traditionally provided baseload electricity,” Bragg-Sitton told Nuclear News.

Putting ideas to the test: A key component of DOE-NE’s integrated energy systems research is to develop a flexible “ecosystem” for modeling, analysis, and optimization of integrated energy systems that can accommodate various reactor types, renewable technologies, energy storage components, and energy users, including water desalination, district heating, hydrogen production, synthetic fuels, and chemicals. “This modeling ecosystem supports optimized system design, identifying the appropriate component sizes for a specified energy application, and optimized real-time energy dispatch, whether that energy is in the form of heat or electricity, and whether that is derived from real-time generation or from stored energy sources,” Bragg-Sitton said. “A lot of work is going on right now. We are installing energy storage in our laboratory for testing and demonstration in the coming year.”

This rendering of a portion of DETAIL identifies the MAGNET (Microreactor Agile Nonnuclear Testbed), TEDS (Thermal Energy Distribution Systems) and HTSE (High-Temperature Steam Electrolysis) equipment. Image: INL

Specific elements of TEDS, the Thermal Energy Distribution System being installed at INL’s DETAIL lab, are shown in this rendering. Image: INL

In DETAIL: The integrated energy systems laboratories at INL are housed in the Dynamic Energy Transport and Integration Laboratory (DETAIL). DETAIL incorporates multiple subsystems, connecting heat and electricity producers, thermal and electrical storage, and multiple heat and electricity customers through a thermal and electrical network. Each component will be able to operate either independently or in response to the needs of the lab-scale grid.

The thermal components of the DETAIL testbed are funded by DOE-NE. They include a High-Temperature Steam Electrolysis (HTSE) system; a Microreactor Agile Nonnuclear Testbed (dubbed MAGNET), which will use electrical heating elements to emulate the heat from nuclear fuel; and a Thermal Energy Distribution System (TEDS).

“The High-Temperature Steam Electrolysis system is currently operational, and TEDS and MAGNET are being installed now,” Bragg-Sitton said. “They are expected to be fully operational by December.”

ESGC Background: The DOE created the ESGC in January 2020 with the goal of accelerating the development, commercialization, and utilization of next-generation energy storage. The ESGC Draft Roadmap outlines a department-wide strategy to accelerate innovation across a range of storage technologies based on three concepts to ensure that the United States retains a global leadership role: Innovate Here, Make Here, Deploy Everywhere.

The preparation of the Draft Roadmap was a crosscutting effort managed by the DOE’s Research Technology Investment Committee to provide planned activities for the five tracks of the ESGC: Technology Development, Manufacturing and Supply Chain, Technology Transition, Policy and Valuation, and Workforce Development.

Responses to the RFI must be submitted electronically to no later than August 31.

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