NuScale modular nuclear reactors can produce over 2,000 kg/hour of hydrogen

NuScale Power, the startup specializing in the design of small modular nuclear reactors, has published new data concerning the production capacities of its NuScale Power Module (NPM). Thanks to the 25% increase in power output of an NPM, each NuScale module is now capable of producing 2,053 kg/hour of hydrogen, or nearly 50 metric tons per day.

Just one NuScale Power Module can produce 77 MWe of carbon-free electricity to power 60,000 homes in the U.S. NuScale’s flagship power plant design can house up to 12 modules for a total gross output of 924 MWe. The 924 MWe that a 12-module NuScale plant produces is enough to power nearly 700,000 homes with clean, reliable energy.

The ability of our NPM to now produce even more clean hydrogen, in a smaller footprint, is yet another example of how NuScale’s technology can help decarbonize various sectors of the economy while providing additional revenue streams for customers,” said Dr. José Reyes, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of NuScale Power. “Coupled with our proven design, unparalleled safety, and load-following capabilities, this analysis further demonstrates that NuScale’s design is the gold standard in helping meet the demand for innovative solutions to challenging global energy needs.”

NuScale Power Module (NPM)
NuScale Power Module (NPM). Credit: NuScale Power

The energy from a single NPM in the form of superheated steam and electricity is sent directly to a High-Temperature Electrolysis System (HTSE) operating at 850° C. Only 2% of the electrical power of the NPM (or approximately 1.8 MWe) is used to increase the temperature of the vapor from 300° C to 850° C.

In theory, a multi-module NuScale plant could produce clean, reliable electricity for the grid while allocating one or more modules to produce hydrogen when electricity demand is low. The great thing about modular technology of this type is that it is possible to install one, two, five, or even a dozen modules, as needed, virtually anywhere.

NuScale further points out that a recent report from LucidCatalyst shows that sufficient, low-cost, clean hydrogen production – to replace oil and gas in shipping, aviation, and industry – could help the world meet its Paris goals of keeping warming between 1.5-2°C.

But more than 95% of the world’s hydrogen is currently produced using fossil fuels, with the most common method being steam methane reforming from natural gas. Renewable energies alone could not meet demand. According to NuScale Power, using a single NPM to produce 50 tonnes of hydrogen per day would avoid around 460 tons of CO2 emissions per day, or 168,000 tons of CO2 per year, compared to hydrogen production from natural gas.

A 924 MWe NuScale plant would avoid over eight million tons of CO2 emissions per year (as compared to coal) – the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road for a year.

The company also specifies that its technology is perfectly suited to assist in decarbonizing transportation since a single NPM can produce enough hydrogen to power 38,000 fuel cell vehicles or 1,500 long-haul fuel cell trucks at average annual fuel usage rates in the United States.

Its first plant is scheduled for installation at Idaho National Laboratory, in the northwest of the United States, and commissioning is scheduled for 2030. It now expects to build six 77 MWe NuScale Power Modules, giving an overall capacity of 462 MWe, on a site at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), rather than 12 units as previously planned.

The company does not directly explain why a small modular hydrogen reactor should be better than a conventional large nuclear reactor. It’s believable economically, and small reactors are more practical than large ones for many reasons.

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