Wednesday, June 29, 2022

New study will explore nuclear reactor-based creation of hydrogen

A nine-month feasibility study at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield will invest almost £250,000 to explore the possibilities of using advanced nuclear reactors as a route to more efficient low-carbon hydrogen production.

Led by Frazer-Nash Consultancy and the Nuclear AMRC the project will explore the feasibility of developing a hydrogen production demonstrator and test facility that simulates the heat and electricity outputs of a new generation of nuclear plant, based on a variety of small modular reactor and advanced modular reactor designs.

As well as supporting the development of new designs of SMR and AMR, the facility will help companies which are developing new technologies for low-carbon hydrogen production, enabling them to test and refine their technologies’ performance, with a goal of commercial deployment as part of a nuclear cogeneration installation in the mid-2030s.

Steve McCluskey, technology management consultant at Frazer-Nash and overall project delivery manager, says: “We are thrilled to have won funding for this exciting study combining new and emerging technologies from within the nuclear and hydrogen sectors, gaining valuable insights from industry on future trends and understanding their requirements.

“I look forward to working in close collaboration with the team members from within Frazer-Nash and the Nuclear AMRC to ensure the successful delivery of this project and having the opportunity to contribute to battling the global climate crisis in an innovative manner.”

The proposed test facility will cover hydrogen production by high-temperature electrolysis and thermochemical splitting of water. Both techniques are more energy efficient than conventional electrolysis, while avoiding the high greenhouse gas emissions of steam methane reforming.

By demonstrating how advanced nuclear reactors can effectively produce hydrogen, the new facility will accelerate the deployment of sustainable hydrogen production as part of the global transition to net zero emissions. As well as replacing fossil fuels for transport and heating, hydrogen can help decarbonise industrial processes such as steelmaking, chemical synthesis, and the production of ethanol and synthetic fuels.

Neil Murray, business development manager for advanced nuclear technologies at the Nuclear AMRC, says: “It is well understood that nuclear power will play an important part in meeting 2050 net-zero targets as a provider of baseload electricity to meet ever-increasing demands, but nuclear power’s cogenerative potential is absolutely massive and largely untapped.

“Various studies have shown that nuclear energy’s unique combination of heat and electricity can be used to produce clean hydrogen at a price similar to current renewable and fossil fuel methods, at any time of day, in all weathers, and without the need for fossil fuels or carbon capture. This demonstrator will seek to unlock the potential for nuclear as part of the wider energy mix, by answering the questions that would otherwise go unanswered until SMR and AMR reactors are operating in the 2030s.”

In the first phase of the collaborative project, Frazer-Nash and the Nuclear AMRC will work with hydrogen and nuclear industry partners to investigate the feasibility of a small-scale hydrogen production demonstrator to simulate the output of a range of AMR and SMR designs. This feasibility study will take nine months, supported by funding of around £237,000 from BEIS.

Tom Purnell, business manager for advanced nuclear and government at Frazer-Nash, says: “It is really encouraging to receive the support from BEIS for this project and a great endorsement of the contribution from advanced nuclear to achieve net zero. In collaboration with the Nuclear AMRC and with the backing of a range of both hydrogen production and advanced nuclear vendors, we are ready to truly contribute towards the delivery of a whole energy system.”

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