New nuclear plants could be adapted to make hydrogen for fuel, an Austrian scientist told the world’s largest scientific society.
At last month’s annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, Ibrahim Khamis, Ph.D., said that scientists and economists at IAEA and elsewhere are working intensively to determine how nuclear power reactors could be enlisted in hydrogen production.
Until now, fossil fuels such as coal and methane have typically been used to provide the electricity needed to make hydrogen, but climate friendly sources such as wind and solar (both from normal solar installations, as well as at the nanosolar scale) as well as from methane made from sewage, are all being investigated as future sources that do not depend on fossil fuels.
Oddly, nuclear reactors have been largely left out in the rush to find less carbon-intensive ways to split the hydrogen out of water for the hydrogen economy. Yet nuclear plants already produce the heat for changing water into steam and the electricity for breaking the steam down into hydrogen and oxygen.
Because of the dangers of nuclear power, building nuclear plants in developed economies have proven to be very expensive. The potential danger has led to extreme caution in regulating new nuclear plants, resulting in expensive delays and high insurance costs. Yet even current plants could be used to split hydrogen from water.
“Nuclear hydrogen from electrolysis of water or steam is a reality now, yet the economics need to be improved,” said Khamis.
While he didn’t mention any countries specifically, he noted that some countries are now considering construction of new nuclear plants that include high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) stations that would allow them to generate hydrogen gas on a large scale.