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Pink H2 and the energy mix: How nuclear power plants can contribute to the energy transition

Nuclear power plants can produce pink H2 in various methods, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. On day 2 of the Hydrogen Americas Summit in Washington D.C., co-hosted by the Sustainable Energy Council and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a panel discussion on the potential role of nuclear and pink H2 within the energy mix took place titled, “Nuclear and Hydrogen: Opportunities for the Future,” followed by a brief Q & A.

John Kotek, Senior Vice President for Policy Development and Public Affairs for the Nuclear Energy Institute, moderated the panel, joined by Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy and Steve Chengelis, Director of Transformative Nuclear Technologies for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The discussion began with Huff describing the highlights of the U.S. DOE’s plans for advancing the H2 agenda. Nuclear power is 50% of the clean electricity in the U.S. and is the largest single source of clean electricity. “In partnership with EERV and our fuel cell technologies friends, we have four existing demonstration awards at existing nuclear power plants where they are demonstrating the production of H2 when the sun is shining, and the electrons aren’t as needed on the grid,” Huff said. “Those projects have started and should be in production soon.”

Huff went on to describe the DOE’s interest in building advanced reactors and keeping existing reactors. According to Huff, of the multiple H2 hubs that the DOE has planned, at least one will be centered around nuclear as an energy source.

Kotek gave the next question to Chengelis, asking him to describe how EPRI plans to ensure the availability of the fleet of nuclear power plants for H2 production. “We have our advanced nuclear technology group that looks at everything required to build a new nuclear power plant, to when you first start looking to putting in an integrated resource plan, to looking at cost options, advanced manufacturing and construction, to commissioning and deployment of a new reactor,” Chengelis said. “Nuclear electricity has traditionally been baseload; now, we are looking at how we can do more than just electricity power to the grid, like district heating, chemical production and H2 production.”

Huff then spoke on advanced reactors. She said that advanced reactors get to several hundred degrees Celsius. According to Huff, there may be chances to create vast quantities of H2 at a single point, in which single-point H2 consumption will be required. She gave the example of a steel plant, where a lot of H2 is always required at a predictable rate and highest efficiency.

Toward the end of the discussion, audience participants took the conversation internationally. A question from an audience member inquired about Japan and whether they would focus on nuclear or importing H2.

“Japan has announced that in December, they will have a final decision throughout the government, but the direction of the Japanese leaders is to reopen all existing power plants on the land side but not the ocean side,” Huff said.

According to Chengelis, the plants that can are ready to restart their power after the safety measures are taken. “Four utilities have formed a joint venture along with MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) to look at building an advanced light water reactor,” Chengelis said. “It’s not just about bringing back on; they are looking to build out as well.”

Story by: Tyler Campbell, Managing Editor, H2Tech