Ibrahim Khamis, Ph.D at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria, has recently described to the scientific community a method nuclear power plants could use to provide the heat necessary for the production of hydrogen from water, through electrolysis.
He presented his research at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), where he said that he and his colleagues from around the world are now focusing onto ways to use the total of 435 nuclear reactors for this kind of operations, including the enlisting of future ones.
“There is rapidly growing interest around the world in hydrogen production using nuclear power plants as heat sources,” Khamis said. “Hydrogen production using nuclear energy could reduce dependence on oil for fueling motor vehicles and the use of coal for generating electricity. In doing so, hydrogen could have a beneficial impact on global warming, since burning hydrogen releases only water vapor and no carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. There is a dramatic reduction in pollution.”
Industrial hydrogen production facilities currently produce the gas from methane or coal, but the main drawback to this method is the releasing of carbon dioxide which, despite the modern carbon filters installed at the factories’ furnaces, thus ruining the benefits hydrogen can bring to the environment.
Current nuclear power plants have been envisioned to be able to provide heat for low-temperature electrolysis. This approach could also use low electricity prices during off-peak hours. However, when dedicated nuclear hydrogen-generating facilities will be built, they’ll use more efficient high temperature electrolysis or even couple the production to thermochemical processes.
“Nuclear hydrogen from electrolysis of water or steam is a reality now, yet the economics need to be improved,” Khamis said.