Idaho National Laboratory and PNW Hydrogen Partner to Produce Clean Hydrogen with Nuclear Energy

Idaho National Laboratory will partner with the country's largest commercial nuclear energy facility to bring the nation one step closer to a carbon-free future.

PNW Hydrogen, LLC has been selected to receive federal funding to explore the use of nuclear energy to produce clean hydrogen via electrolysis. PNW Hydrogen is an affiliate company of Pinnacle West Capital Corp.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the funding award on Oct. 8, which it has designated as National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day.

The collaborative private-public partnership will use a low-temperature electrolysis system to produce clean hydrogen fuel from electricity generated by the Palo Verde Generating Station – the largest source of carbon-free energy in the U.S. The hydrogen produced will then be used to help fuel a natural gas-fired power plant owned by Pinnacle West's electric subsidiary, Arizona Public Service.

That approach would cut carbon-emissions from two sources: traditional hydrogen production and burning natural gas for electricity.

Currently, industrial grade hydrogen is produced by stripping it from natural gas molecules, emitting carbon monoxide in the process. Hydrogen made by splitting water at a nuclear power plant will lower the carbon footprint of industrial products and the transportation sector. The hydrogen produced by Palo Verde also potentially could be stored for use when customer electricity demand exceeds supply.

"This project, and others like it, align with the mission of INL and DOE to sustain the existing fleet of operating light water reactors and support the pipeline of future advanced nuclear power systems," said Bruce Hallbert, director of DOE's Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program, based at INL. "These projects demonstrate the versatility of nuclear power to meet the demands for energy and energy products while achieving reductions in carbon emissions to the environment."

Similar projects are already underway with a consortium led by INL and including Arizona Public Service. Last October, DOE awarded $10 million to Minnesota-based Xcel Energy to pair one of its nuclear power plants with high-temperature steam electrolysis. That builds on a project launched in 2019 to demonstrate how hydrogen production facilities could be installed at Energy Harbor Generation's Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, Ohio. APS, Xcel and Energy Harbor participated in all awards as a consortium.

On June 7, 2021, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm launched the first Earthshot Initiative that seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen to decarbonize the industrial sector and realize a net-zero economy by 2050.

By generating clean hydrogen, nuclear power plants can contribute significantly to the Earthshot. These projects are key to demonstrating the ability to integrate hydrogen production with nuclear energy.

“By diversifying the uses of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants, we provide additional economic and environmental opportunities for nuclear energy to continue to contribute to our nation’s economy and energy supply mix,” said Hallbert. “Those, in turn, provide compelling reasons to continue to operate the existing fleet of light water reactors into the future.”

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