Two US Nuclear Utilities Order Hydrogen Production Gear

  • Two US Nuclear Utilities Order Hydrogen Production Equipment
  • UK Sizewell C Plant to Produce Hydrogen Synchronized with Renewables
  • Sizewell C / Timeline For Final Decision to Build is Delayed
  • CNSC and NRC Complete First Joint Regulatory Review of X-Energy’s Advanced Reactor Manufacturing Codes
  • X-Energy Expands TRISO-X as a Subsidiary to Commercialize its Advanced Nuclear Fuel
  • Russia’s Arctic SMR Plans Make Progress
  • Moltex, ARC Canada and NB Power Announce New Brunswick SMR Supply Chain Event

Two US Nuclear Utilities Order Hydrogen Production Equipment

hydrogen bubbles

Exelon and First Energy have placed orders having a combined value of $2,6M with Nel Hydrogen, which is HQ’d in Norway, for equipment to make hydrogen for use on site at each plant and to sell surplus hydrogen offsite.

Nel Hydrogen US has a plant in Wallingford, CT, that manufactures the equipment. The hardware is expected to be installed and in operation at both US nuclear reactors in 2022.

Exelon has ordered a 1 MW unit and Energy Harbor (formerly First Energy) has ordered a 2 MW unit. Exelon did not name the reactor, which will be a BWR, where it will install the hydrogen production equipment.

Update 08/19/21: Exelon Generation’s Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant in Oswego, N.Y., will be the site of a Department of Energy-funded hydrogen production demonstration project using a Proton Exchange Membrane electrolyzer in partnership with Nel Hydrogen, the Argonne and Idaho National laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

Energy Harbor is reported to be planning to install its hydrogen production unit at the Davis-Besse plant, which is a PWR, located near Toledo, OH.

Exelon Generation received a DOE cost-share grant in October 2019 to install a 1-MW scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer and supporting infrastructure at one of its nuclear plants. The three-year project’s budget is $7.2 million, with the utility and DOE splitting the cost.

Energy Harbor was selected by DOE in September 2019 for a two-year project. The project is expected to cost $10 million with the utility and DOE splitting the cost. At the ANS 2020 Spring meeting the project manager disclosed the plant, when fully operational, will produce 800-to-1000 kilograms (1 tonne) of hydrogen per day. Assuming 220 days of production this schedule would result in 176-220 tonnes of hydrogen in a production year.

A primary project outcome for both utilities includes the successful operation and control of what will be the first electrolyzer at a nuclear generating plant in the US configured for dynamic dispatch. In addition, the project will demonstrate the economic feasibility of hydrogen production at nuclear sites and provide a blueprint for large scale carbon-free hydrogen export in support of DOE’s H2@Scale program objectives.

The purchase of the equipment is paid for in part from a $9.2M program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) which will split the costs with the utilities. Other US nuclear utilities which are expected to also participate in the program are Xcel Energy and Arizona Public Service.

DOE funding is intended to demonstrate that the hydrogen production process will work with these reactors. The agency said ten nuclear reactors could produce about one-fifth of the current hydrogen used in the United States.  As uses of hydrogen as a fuel increase the growing demand for it could be met by using nuclear reactors to produce it.

Energy Harbor said via a corporate spokesperson that it will operate its electrolyser for six to eight months to determine whether there is a business case to scale up production. “We definitely see hydrogen as an emerging technology and a growing market.”

According to DOE nuclear power plants can produce hydrogen in a variety of methods that would greatly reduce air emissions while taking advantage of the constant thermal energy and electricity it reliably provides.

The production of hydrogen could add a revenue stream for plants that produce it. For instance, reactors in Ohio could sell hydrogen to iron and steel manufacturing plants. The Midwest could target fertilizer producers and California could market hydrogen stations for fuel cells and hybrid vehicles. The development and build out of fueling stations that can be used safely by consumers is a critical success factor.

This new revenue stream could also help build an economic case to keep the nation’s at-risk reactors up and running. If the reactors can produce the hydrogen at a cheaper rate than current methods that use natural gas, then there will be a bonus in terms of less CO2 emissions.

markets for hydrogen

The program, H2@Scale, is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiative that brings together stakeholders to advance affordable hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilization to enable decarbonization and revenue opportunities across multiple sectors.

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UK Sizewell C Plant to Produce Hydrogen Synchronized with Renewables

sizewell c logo

The planned twin 1650 MW EPRs to be built at the Sizewell C site at an estimated cost of $20 billion will be used to produce electricity as baseload power. The reactors will also be used to produce hydrogen when renewable energy sources, especially wind, are adding power to the grid.

According to a report by the Bloomberg wire service, the plan to use the Sizewell C plant to make hydrogen is a first of a kind application at a commercial scale in Europe. The potential market for hydrogen in the EU is huge but there is a wide range of estimates and forecasts some extended to 2050. Overall, the scale of the challenge of decarbonizing multiple industrial sectors of the European economy is still being scoped by experts.

“The amount of clean hydrogen that we’re going to need to really decarbonize our economic sectors is just immense,” said Elina Teplinsky, a Washington-based partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP who focuses on nuclear projects and deals. She told Bloomberg “We need all of the hydrogen production sources that are available — we’re going to need nuclear.”

By using excess electrical generation capacity from the nuclear reactors to make hydrogen during times when the sun shines and the wind blows, nuclear utilities won’t lose revenue to renewable technologies.  This is also important due to the fact that nuclear reactors run at or near 100% of capacity and load following on the grid isn’t an option. By diverting the power generation to making hydrogen the utility can realize the full value of the heat coming from the reactor.

EDF said that it could have the hydrogen production capability in place soon after completing the first of two plants by 2030 if the UK government approves it and if investors can be found to pay for the hydrogen gas production equipment.

Some expert analysts question rosy scenarios for making hydrogen at nuclear plants. Hydrogen production and nuclear energy are capital-intensive industries. Combining the two will only increase project costs, said Rob Gross, professor at Imperial College London and director of researcher UKERC.

He told Bloomberg, “The proposition would take a very expensive thing, a nuclear power station, and add on another expensive thing – hydrogen production.”

“It’s not nuclear versus wind versus solar. We need to use everything and cooperate to make the most of the technologies,” Julia Pyke, Sizewell C’s financing director, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Ideally, you’d have the electrolyzer supplied both by nuclear and by wind.”

The UK government is reported to be working on a hydrogen strategy but has not yet released details of it. The UK’s National Grid PLC told Bloomberg that on a national basis, assuming other nuclear plants are also built and add hydrogen production to their operations, these plants could supply about 14% of the nation’s need for the gas.

That’s a big assumption since three of the sites planned under the UK new nuclear build have lost their financing and vendors. They are Moorside (3 Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000s), and Wylfa & Oldbury ( 2 each Hitachi 1350 MWe ABWRs). The Bradwell site (1000 MWe PWR) is up in the air due to the UK government’s abrupt consideration of a decision to cut China out of the Sizewell C project.

The good news about hydrogen is that when it is burned, the result is water vapor (H2O) and not CO2. So any addition of hydrogen to the energy mix as a replacement for fossil fuels is a plus.

The U.K. has reportedly set a target for ramping up hydrogen production by 2030, and plans to use it in road transportation, home heating, and ship propulsion. Some railroads are also considering replacing their diesel locomotives with units powered by fuel cells.

“The nuclear industry does need to broaden its ambition and recognize the value of these opportunities,” said Kirsty Gogan, managing director of consultant Lucid Catalyst in London and member of a government nuclear advisory board. “We have started to see this happening.”

Update 08/17/21 UK Gov’t Releases Hydrogen Strategy: (WNN) The UK government says nuclear will play a significant role in developing a thriving low-carbon hydrogen sector to meet the country’s ambition for 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. The finding is in the government’s Hydrogen Strategy released today. The report is chock full of unverifiable estimates of the number of jobs that would be created by the strategy.

By 2030, the government says, hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonizing polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, trucks and trains, by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels.

Hydrogen Cost Scenarios

EDFsays  is optimistic about its plans. The French company intends to install an experimental 2 MW electrolyzer that will produce 800 kg of hydrogen per day. It could increase to 550 MW by 2035 with a daily production of 220,000 kg. EDF expects LCOH of around €2.44/kg (or £1.89/kg) over a 20-year project cycle depending on power price and falling technology costs. A calendar year has 8,960 hours.

Assuming the production of hydrogen runs 50% of the time on average, e.g., night when the sun doesn’t shine thereby eliminating solar produced electricity from the grid, then (800 kg/day x 182 days = 146,000 Kg +/-). The problem with this simple arithmetic is that it doesn’t change downtime for unplanned maintenance and other types of outages that cut into total production.

However, suppose we assume that only a portion of the reactor’s electricity generation is used to produce hydrogen, which is the most likely case? Then all 8,960 hours are available. If total production time, less maintenance and other forms of downtime, is 75%, then that comes to 6,720 hours or 280 days. Thus production would be (280 days x 800 kg/day = 224,000 Kg of hydrogen per year).

The IEA’s ‘the future of hydrogen’ report in 2019 shows that the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) is strongly dependent on the number of hours it runs. Hydrogen could be produced with LCOH of more than $4 per kg if the electrolyzer would be running for 500 hours/year. That would drop to $0.50/kg if it was used for 8,000 hours/year. Assuming price moves in a linear manner with number of hours of operation, then 75% of production days yields of $1/kg. This figure only tells us the cost of production and not the price charged to customers which includes the cost of distribution such as fueling stations, marketing, overhead, etc.

In terms of applying this to the transport sector, the question is for a fuel cell powered train, what is the price differential per mile between diesel fuel and hydrogen (fuel) cell for the same locomotive and number of cars (freight or passenger)? These kinds of analyses might be more useful than just throwing out undifferentiated price figures.

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Sizewell C / Timeline For Final Decision to Build is Delayed

delay

(NucNet contributed to this report) The timeline for EDF to decide whether to go ahead with the £20bn Sizewell C nuclear power station has been delayed because of a lengthy planning approval process and continuing negotiations over funding it.

The UK government has not committed to a funding plan for the project and the overall approval for the plant is mired in the maddening minutiae of the multiple agencies having jurisdiction over the the project. A key dispute that arose this week is that EDF wants to process sea water into fresh water for making concrete at the plant which has created issues for the local water authority.

As a result of a virtual maelstrom of bureaucratic conflicts, including changes to the project requested by EDF, the firm now says that breaking ground for the plant could take place as late as 2023 with completion of the first plant as late as the end of this decade. The twin 1650 MWe EPRs will be built in a serial manner as one module is completed on the first unit, crews will then move to the second plant.

EDF’s track record in building EPRs with plants in Finland and France is not a confidence builder these dates can be met. For its part, EDF says it will apply lessons learned from these sites, and from building the Hinkley C plants (twin EPRs) to keep costs under control and schedules on time.

To RAB It or not That is the Question?

Earlier this month the Financial Times reported that UK ministers were in the process of drawing up legislation that will allow the construction of the two Sizewell C units through a regulated asset base (RAB) financing method. The government has dithered for several years over a policy decision to process with the RAB method. If the UK parliament can move the bill forward, it will be a big milestone for the Sizewell C project.

The RAB model encourages investment in major infrastructure projects by delivering reliable returns, at a reduced rate, before a plant is operational. This reduces the need for large-scale, long-term borrowing at high interest rates, which significantly increases the cost of power.

The RAB approach is widely used internationally and has attracted investors for the construction of UK infrastructure projects including the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Heathrow Terminal 5.

The financial plan for the project is in flux as the UK government is considering ejecting China General Nuclear (CGN), which has offered a 20% equity investment to help pay for it. The UK government recently got what it says is a case of national security jitters over China. It has since also filed objections to China’s internal handling of dissent in Hong Kong and its harsh dealings with a Muslim minority population.

Excluding China from Sizewell?

The move to exclude CGN from the consortium planning to build Sizewell C, as well as from the planned Bradwell project in Essex will seriously annoy China which had hopes of building the first instance of its Hualong One 1000MWe PWR at the UK Bradwell site. The UK government has already booted a Chinese telecommunications firms from bidding on 5G wireless services for the UK. The result is that diplomatic relations between the two countries are in a downturn.

For its part China’s foreign ministry issued a somewhat oblique statement that the decision to remove CGN from the Sizewell C project is not in the interests of both nations. CGN has been banking on building at Bradwell as it would be the first export of the Hualong One to a western industrialized nation.

China has built two of the reactors for Pakistan. According to the World Nuclear Association, on the domestic side China as extensive commitments to the design. The Hualong first units are Fangchenggang 3&4 (CGN) and Fuqing 5&6 (CNNC). CGN will also build two units as Ningde 5&6.

What is this all means is that the UK objection to the Hualong One has nothing to do with China’s ability to build one and everything to do with EDF’s financial challenges made complicated by the UK government’s notorious procrastination over the policy it will have to finance Sizewell C and the rest of its nuclear new build.

Also, Rolls-Royce, which is planning to build, with UK government financial help, a fleet of 16 470 MWe PWRs, has no interest in seeing China take some of that market share at Bradwell with one and possibly three Hulaong One plants. It’s quite likely the UK government is hearing from the defense contractor on this issue.

EDF’s Financial Stake in Sizewell C

Underneath it all is a statement by EDF that the French state-owned nuclear firm wants out of being the majority equity holder for Sizewell. It currently is on the hook for 80% of the cost estimated to be in the area of $20 billion.

If China is removed as a 20% equity investor, then other western investors, including some from the US, might come to the table. There is a second big “if” here, and that is whether the UK government will implement the RAB method of financing the project. It is somewhat of a concept twin to the CWIP method here in the US.

If EDF can succeed in kicking out out China, and welcoming western institutional investors, it will need to secure $10 billion in new money to reduce its equity stake to 50% of the estimated costs of completing the two reactors.

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CNSC and NRC Complete First Joint Regulatory Review of X-Energy’s Advanced Reactor Manufacturing Codes

(WNN) Nuclear safety regulators in Canada and the US have completed their first collaborative project on licensing of SMRs. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have issued a joint report to provide feedback to X-energy on the manufacturing codes it proposes to use in both countries for the reactor pressure vessel of its Xe-100 design. The report marks the first tangible result of a program of cooperation the CNSC and NRC entered into in August 2019. ~ 14 page report (PDF file)

In this first project, the regulators worked together to assess a white paper submitted to them by X-energy in July 2020. It concerned the construction codes the company would like to use for the reactor pressure vessel of its Xe-100 high temperature reactor design.

The CNSC and NRC jointly concluded this approach is “viable” provided X-energy includes certain “additional technical justification” as requested in the report and “addresses both regulators’ observations” in the document. The CNSC emphasized that this is “informal” feedback which “does not result in any regulatory decision making.”

About the Xe-100

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe high temperature gas-cooled reactor to be built in packs of up to four. It is undergoing vendor design review with the CNSC, and is participating in the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

Xe-100 is proposed for construction at both Energy Northwest’s Columbia power plant in Washington state via the DOE ARDP and at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington power plant based on funding from the utility and the Canadian government.

xe-100

In general, the cooperation agreement between the two agencies has allowed the CNSC and the NRC to take into account the results and insights produced by each others’ technical reviews of reactor designs, without prejudicing any decisions they might make as independent licensing authorities in their respective countries.

CNSC president Rumina Velshi said: “Globally, interest and advances in small modular and advanced reactors are growing rapidly. The CNSC and the US NRC are working together as regulatory leaders to ensure the development and deployment of these innovative technologies are done safely and efficiently.”

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X-Energy Expands TRISO-X as a Subsidiary to Commercialize its Advanced Nuclear Fuel

X-energy announced it will expand its fuel division as a wholly owned subsidiary called TRISO-X to commercially develop its proprietary tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel for the burgeoning advanced nuclear energy sector. Dr. Pete Pappano, X-energy’s Vice President of fuel production, will lead the new company as its President.

The new company takes its name from the TRISO nuclear fuel developed by X-energy for its flagship Xe-100 reactor, but the fuel is compatible with a variety of other advanced reactor designs under development.

Since joining X-energy in 2015, Dr. Pappano has been instrumental in standing up the company’s ability to produce advanced nuclear fuel at a commercial scale. As the leader of X-energy’s ARC15 project, a five-year program funded by the Department of Energy, Dr. Pappano established a commercial-scale fuel line at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has demonstrated the company’s patented TRISO fabrication process leading to higher yields and higher quality fuel.

“After years of seeing the incredible results from our partnership with Oak Ridge, I’m thrilled to embark on this next chapter in the development of X-energy’s advanced fuel program,” said Dr. Pappano.

TRISO-X is also advancing its plans for a second fuel fabrication facility in Canada to serve the Canadian market. The Xe-100 design is under consideration by Ontario Power Generation for the Darlington New Nuclear Projec. X-energy is currently engaged in design and engineering work with the utility. At the same time, X-energy is engaged with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s optional Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review.

About the Fuel

X-energy’s TRISO-X fuel consists of kernels of high-assay low-enriched uranium the size of a poppy seed wrapped in three alternating layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide. More than 18,000 of TRISO-X particles are embedded in a graphite fuel pebble, making the fuel “meltdown proof.” These fuel pebbles are loaded into Xe-100 reactor modules and together are capable of producing 320 MWe in the standard four-pack Xe-100 plant configuration.

x-energy triso fuel

“TRISO-X is key to the safety of advanced nuclear reactors,” says Dr. Brandon Blamer, Pebble Lead & Process Engineering Manager.

“Each TRISO-X particle carries its own containment vessel and is made from materials that will never melt. This fuel is unlike anything used in American reactors today and is going to revolutionize the nuclear industry.”

“TRISO-X fuel is small, but mighty,” said Dr. Dan Brown, TRISO Fuel Fabrication Manager. “We’ve built on decades of research to create a safe, clean, and efficient fuel that is ready to power the next generation of nuclear reactors.”

TRISO fuel has undergone extensive testing as part of the DOE Advanced Gas Reactor (AGR) fuel qualification program. Thousands of TRISO particles were exposed to temperatures approaching 1800C and held there for ~12 days, well above what would ever be seen in an advanced nuclear reactor, and no failed particles were observed.

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Russia’s Arctic SMR Plans Make Progress

(WNN) Rusatom Overseas has been licensed to construct Russia’s first SMR power plant on land. The plant, based on the RITM-200 reactor design, is scheduled to operate in the Russian Arctic town of Usk-Kuyga by 2028.

“We have reached another milestone in the project for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Yakutia region” said Oleg Sirazetdinov, vice president of Rusatom Overseas.

Usk-Kuyga is a town of around 1000 inhabitants on the Arctic coast of Russia’s far east in the Republic of Yakutia. The regional government has agreed to take up to 50 MWe of the plant’s production.

RITM reactors are family of pressurized water reactors designed by OKBM Afrikantov which are usually used in pairs.

Versions of the design are already used in three of the latest icebreakers – Arktika, Sibir and Ural – and are proposed for floating nuclear power plants. Construction in Usk-Kuyga will be the first deployment of the version adapted for use on land.

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Moltex, ARC Canada and NB Power Announce New Brunswick SMR Supply Chain Event

moltex logo

A New Brunswick Small Modular Reactor (SMR) supply chain event will be held in Uptown Saint John on Wednesday October 28 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Check COVID health advisories ahead of time.

The event will focus on how suppliers from Atlantic Canada can participate in the advanced SMR opportunity. Representatives from Moltex, ARC Canada, NB Power, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, First Nations Power Authority, and the Canadian and New Brunswick governments will provide updates on the projects and supplier opportunities.

Specific attention will be given to how participants can be involved in the supply chain, through facilitated breakout sessions and opportunities to engage with the vendors.

Contact: Moltex 75 Prince William Street, Unit 102, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L 2B2
Erin Polka, Director of Communications, 506-721-9551 erinpolka@moltexenergy.com

Background on the Supply Chain Event

Earlier this year, several funding announcements were made in support of this development. In February, the Government of New Brunswick announced $20 million in funding for ARC Canada towards the advancement of their design of the ARC-100, a 100-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor.

Further, in March, the Government of Canada announced $50.5 million in funding for Moltex through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) towards the advancement of their design of a 300 MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) and WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) facility.

The Government of Canada also announced funding for New Brunswick Power (NB Power) to prepare the site at the Point Lepreau location for SMR deployment and demonstration, and to the University of

NB Power selected the Moltex Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) as one of two reactors it intends to build at the Point Lepreau site.

Having completed the submission to Vendor Design Review phase 1 (VDR1) with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Moltex will soon move on to VDR2 and then to the application for the necessary licences.

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About djysrv

Dan Yurman ~ For breaking nuclear news follow me on Twitter @djysrv or https://www.twitter.com/djysrv ~ About this blog and disclaimers for NeutronBytes Blog ~ https://neutronbytes.com/2014/08/31/welcome-post/ ~ Email me: neutronbytes [at] gmail [dot] com ~ Mobile via Google Voice 216-369-7194 ~ I am NOT active on Facebook, Reddit or Instagram. Attempt no landings there. Header Image Credit: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110904.html ~ ** Emails sent by readers about blog posts are considered to be comments for publication unless otherwise noted. ** The content of this blog is protected by copyright laws of the U.S. "Fair use" provisions apply. The RSS feed is for personal use only unless otherwise explicitly granted.
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