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Economic Analysis of a Nuclear Reactor Powered High-Temperature Electrolysis Hydrogen Production Plant

[+] Author Affiliations
E. A. Harvego, M. G. McKellar, M. S. Sohal, J. E. O’Brien, J. S. Herring

Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID

Paper No. ES2008-54206, pp. 549-558; 10 pages
  • ASME 2008 2nd International Conference on Energy Sustainability collocated with the Heat Transfer, Fluids Engineering, and 3rd Energy Nanotechnology Conferences
  • ASME 2008 2nd International Conference on Energy Sustainability, Volume 1
  • Jacksonville, Florida, USA, August 10–14, 2008
  • Conference Sponsors: Advanced Energy Systems Division and Solar Energy Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4319-2 | eISBN: 0-7918-3832-3
  • Copyright © 2008 by ASME


A reference design for a commercial-scale high-temperature electrolysis (HTE) plant for hydrogen production was developed to provide a basis for comparing the HTE concept with other hydrogen production concepts. The reference plant design is driven by a high-temperature helium-cooled nuclear reactor coupled to a direct Brayton power cycle. The reference design reactor power is 600 MWt , with a primary system pressure of 7.0 MPa, and reactor inlet and outlet fluid temperatures of 540°C and 900°C, respectively. The electrolysis unit used to produce hydrogen includes 4,009,177 cells with a per-cell active area of 225 cm2 . The optimized design for the reference hydrogen production plant operates at a system pressure of 5.0 MPa, and utilizes an air-sweep system to remove the excess oxygen that is evolved on the anode (oxygen) side of the electrolyzer. The inlet air for the air-sweep system is compressed to the system operating pressure of 5.0 MPa in a four-stage compressor with intercooling. The alternating-current (AC) to direct-current (DC) conversion efficiency is 96%. The overall system thermal-to-hydrogen production efficiency (based on the lower heating value of the produced hydrogen) is 47.1% at a hydrogen production rate of 2.356 kg/s. An economic analysis of this plant was performed using the standardized H2A Analysis Methodology developed by the Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen Program, and using realistic financial and cost estimating assumptions. The results of the economic analysis demonstrated that the HTE hydrogen production plant driven by a high-temperature helium-cooled nuclear power plant can deliver hydrogen at a competitive cost. A cost of $3.23/kg of hydrogen was calculated assuming an internal rate of return of 10%.

Copyright © 2008 by ASME



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