NuScale, UAMPS, Others to Assess Small Nuclear Reactors for Hydrogen Production

NuScale Power and its partners, including Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and Shell Global Solutions, are assessing the development of a process for producing hydrogen using small modular nuclear reactors.

In addition to UAMPS and Shell, research participants in the project also include Idaho National Laboratory, Fuel Cell Energy, FPoliSolutions, and GSE Solutions.

In July 2019, UAMPS members executed power sales contracts totaling more than 150 megawatts (MW) of subscriptions in UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project, a 12-module small modular reactor (SMR) being designed and built by NuScale at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

The hydrogen project calls for development of an economically optimized Integrated Energy System (IES) using electricity and process heat from a NuScale small modular reactor.

NuScale said the ultimate aim would be to balance and stabilize power grids dominated by renewable energies through hydrogen production, for example, by producing hydrogen when electric demand is low and, when energy demand is high and renewable energy production is low, using the hydrogen as an end-product or as fuel to create electricity using a reversible solid oxide fuel cell.

Each NuScale nuclear power module produces 250 MW of thermal energy that can be used to drive a steam turbine generator or for a variety of industrial processes, including the production of clean hydrogen, Diane Hughes, NuScale’s vice president of marketing and communications, said via email. A single 77-MW NuScale power module, working with a state-of-the-art fuel cell, is capable of producing up to 2,053 kilograms of hydrogen per hour, or nearly 50 metric tons per day, she said.

NuScale plans to conduct a techno-economic analysis to assess the number of NuScale power modules needed for hydrogen production and the quantity of hydrogen stored for subsequent electricity production. In addition, local economic factors from the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project will be assessed, such as the impact in the Western Energy Imbalance Market, resource adequacy programs, and other local market factors.

In the second phase, NuScale plans to modify a control room simulator to evaluate the dynamics of the integrated energy system, including models for a solid oxide electrolysis system for hydrogen production and a fuel cell for electricity production.

One of the concepts being explored in the study is whether NuScale’s multi-module SMR power plant design could produce reliable clean electricity for the grid while allocating one or more modules to economically produce hydrogen when electricity demand is low, Hughes said.