The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on May 5 that, to accelerate the greening of the emerging hydrogen economy, it had launched an initiative to develop a roadmap for the commercial deployment of the production of hydrogen using nuclear energy. The initiative brings together policy makers, designers, project managers and operators to share the latest advances in national strategies and technologies and to identify the technical readiness for different hydrogen generation technologies at the using nuclear energy. The initiative will result in a roadmap guidance document, to provide countries with a tool for assessing, planning and strategizing for the development of nuclear hydrogen projects.
“Today, the vast majority of hydrogen needed in industries is made using fossil fuel technologies (primarily natural gas), but nuclear energy has the potential to provide both electricity and heat needed to produce hydrogen in a sustainable, low-carbon and cost-effective manner,” said Alina Constantin, IAEA nuclear engineer and co-lead on the project. “However, several challenges related to technology, economics, security and authorization, as well as political support and stakeholder involvement must be raised over the next decade, demonstrating feasibility and enabling the move to production on a commercial scale, if nuclear is to play a role. in the production of hydrogen for the clean energy transition.
Producing clean hydrogen using nuclear power has historically faced cost barriers, but this is changing amid a global energy crisis that is making fossil fuels much more expensive and their less secure global supply. A recent IAEA FRAMES modeling analysis found that when natural gas prices exceed $20 per million British thermal units (BTU), the optimal method of hydrogen production is electrolysis fueled by a mix of nuclear and hydrogen. renewable energies. (In the European Union, natural gas recently traded at around $30 per million BTU.)
“The analysis also revealed that heat-fueled hydrogen production from advanced technologies such as high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) was highly competitive under these price scenarios. HTGRs are being developed. development in several countries and prototypes are already working in China and Japan,” said Francesco Ganda, IAEA technical officer for non-electrical applications and lead author of the analysis.
Interest in clean hydrogen is growing worldwide, with particular interest in the use of nuclear energy. Some 28 countries and four international organizations joined the IAEA’s roadmap initiative when it launched in Vienna in April to discuss their nuclear hydrogen plans or projects. These include demonstrations of hydrogen production using existing reactors as well as plans to use advanced reactors such as small modular reactors to increase efficiency and allow for increased production.
In India, the government this year announced a hydrogen business roadmap focused on renewable and biomass-derived hydrogen. But as hydrogen demand is expected to quintuple by the mid-2030s, studies and research are being conducted to develop a business case for including nuclear in the country’s low-carbon hydrogen production system.
“Hydrogen is a major component of the US plan to decarbonize the country’s industrial sector, which accounts for one-third of CO2 emissions,” said Richard Boardman of the Idaho National Laboratory at the meeting. “Recent US federal legislation allocated $9.5 billion in funding to regional clean hydrogen centers, a clean hydrogen electrolysis program, and clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling initiatives.” Estimates from the US Department of Energy suggest that hydrogen demand could increase tenfold from current volume, with nuclear power potentially producing up to 15% of this total demand.
“The future hydrogen economy is also a hot topic in the European Union,” said Andrei Goicea, political director of FORATOM, the trade association representing the European nuclear industry. “However, as some countries push to produce electrolyzed hydrogen using low-carbon technologies, the case for nuclear could be hampered by EU investment directives that qualify the transition technology nuclear energy,” he said.
“The key to success for nuclear-produced hydrogen will be finding the right opportunities that combine a strong business case and nuclear electricity and heat from existing or new nuclear power plants with applications that offer decarbonization potential. important,” said Ian Castillo of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. . “Where possible, existing infrastructure such as gas pipelines and repurposed coal plant sites should be used.”
The IAEA provides support to countries interested in hydrogen production through initiatives such as Coordinated Research Projects (CRPs) and Technical Meetings. He also developed the Hydrogen Economic Evaluation Program (HEEP), a tool for evaluating the economics of large-scale hydrogen production via nuclear energy. The Agency also led a CRP on reviewing the technical economics of nuclear hydrogen production and is completing a follow-up CRP on assessing the technical and economic aspects of nuclear hydrogen production with a view to short-term deployment.