The coalition envisions transforming the Midwest into a powerhouse for low-carbon fuel production. It said it will use nuclear power generated by Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse nuclear station to produce carbon-free hydrogen through electrolysis.
The coalition said the focus on clean hydrogen production through electrolysis avoids the challenge of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide. Nuclear reactors can produce clean hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Methods are being explored to use nuclear energy to produce hydrogen from water by electrolysis, thermochemical, and hybrid processes.
In October 2021, Energy Harbor and the DOE agreed to develop a hydrogen production demonstration project at Davis-Besse in collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Xcel Energy, and Arizona Public Service. The plant was chosen due to its proximity to key hydrogen consumers in the manufacturing and transportation sectors of the market.
The DOE also announced $20m (€20.01m) in funding to demonstrate technology that will produce clean hydrogen from the three-unit Palo Verde nuclear power station owned and operated by Arizona Public Service Company in Phoenix, Arizona.
Many believe nuclear has the potential to produce hydrogen in a clean and reliable way. Hydrogen is seen as an important path to drive decarbonisation – including in hard-to-abate sectors such as industry. In power generation, hydrogen is one of the leading options for storing renewable energy, and hydrogen can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility.
Demonstration Projects Underway Around World
More than 40 organisations representing industry, government, nonprofit and academia formed the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative (NHI) to advance nuclear hydrogen. NHI aims to facilitate the development of nuclear hydrogen demonstrations, engage investors and advocate for policies that support nuclear hydrogen deployment.
NHI says hydrogen produced from nuclear energy is “green” or “clean” in the same way as hydrogen produced from renewable energy, because nuclear energy is a zero-carbon source of electricity and heat.
According to the International Energy Agency, annual global dedicated hydrogen production stands at around 70 million tonnes. The US DOE says a single 1,000-MW nuclear reactor could produce more than 200,000 tonnes of hydrogen each year. Ten nuclear reactors could produce about two million tonnes annually or one-fifth of the current hydrogen used in the US.
According to the IEA, around 12 demonstration hydrogen projects with a combined electrolyser capacity of 250 MW are exploring using nuclear power for hydrogen production. These projects are in Canada, China, Russia, the UK and the US, but the IEA said that not all will be realised.
Davis-Besse is a single-unit pressurised water reactor unit in Oak Harbor, Ohio, and is situated on Lake Erie. The 894-MW PWR was supplied by Babcock & Wilcox and began commercial operation in 1978.