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Nuclear Hydrogen for a Carbon-Free Energy System

The initiative’s latest report explores the potential for nuclear hydrogen to provide a pathway to net-zero emissions, and gives an overview of the global policy landscape for nuclear hydrogen.

01 About

A coalition of partners advancing nuclear hydrogen as a critical climate solution

The Opportunity: Zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen and ammonia present tremendous opportunities to decarbonize our energy system. Nuclear technologies have the potential to produce hydrogen in a clean, efficient manner, and at the potential scale required to drive decarbonization in hard-to-abate energy sectors without the space constraints of other means of hydrogen production.

Our Mission: Advance nuclear hydrogen as a critical climate solution within a shared vision of a decarbonized global energy system

Our goals:

  • Raise awareness of the role nuclear technologies can play in advancing a large-scale zero-carbon energy market
  • Address technical and regulatory challenges to facilitate the development of nuclear hydrogen demonstrations across technologies
  • Engage the financial community in the development of nuclear hydrogen solutions and innovative structures to finance new projects
  • Develop and share policies that advance nuclear hydrogen as a viable climate solution
  • Catalyze commercial partnerships to enable nuclear hydrogen demonstrations and projects
02 The Report

Hydrogen Production from Carbon-Free Nuclear Energy:

Overview of Current Policies and Recommendations for Government Actions

In the quest for clean, low-carbon hydrogen production pathways, the use of nuclear energy, particularly from advanced reactors, is critical to the sustainable growth of the hydrogen economy. As governments and private sector leaders consider solutions to decarbonize the global energy matrix, hydrogen has increasingly emerged as one promising pathway to net-zero.

This report explores how a nuclear energy source can produce clean hydrogen not only in large quantities, but also in high quality at relatively low cost, without any carbon emissions.

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03 Working Groups

The Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative offers a forum for interested stakeholders from the hydrogen ecosystem

The initiative seeks to engage, exchange information and ideas, and promote partnerships and cooperation. Some of the more focused discussion and engagement is accomplished through working groups across four priority areas. Each group is cross-sectoral and international, and includes participants from various industries, organization types, and jurisdictions.

1

Policy

This working group ensures hydrogen production from nuclear energy is included in hydrogen roadmaps, energy resource planning and other government energy and decarbonization policies. We achieve this by developing policy recommendations and engaging with decision makers at various levels of government to support meaningful implementation of nuclear hydrogen production capabilities.

2

Technology, R&D and Licensing

This working group evaluates technical and regulatory solutions for hydrogen generation from nuclear technologies for lowand high-temperature electrolysis and thermochemical production for the various segments of transportation, industrial, shipping and energy sectors. The group identifies technical challenges and develops recommendations to address them, as well as develops recommendations and implementation plans for potential pilot programs.

3

Markets & Commercial Partnerships

This working group analyzes and facilitates partnerships for nuclear hydrogen production in key markets, including marine shipping, transportation, and the industrial sector. It reviews and identifies global market opportunities, and crafts ideas for potential commercial partnerships to ensure cost and performance competitiveness and address rates of deployment and scalability. This working group also develops and implements strategies to inform key players in each of these markets.

4

Financing

This working group facilitates pathways for financing nuclear hydrogen generation projects, including pilot and demonstration projects. It engages stakeholders in the global financial community, and develops recommendations for alternative models to enable practical and innovative financing.

04 Participants

Meet the participants

The Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative is a nonpartisan, global collaboration of more than 40 companies, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profit organizations working to elevate the role of nuclear-derived hydrogen to decarbonize the global energy system.

If you’re interested in participating in the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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05 Resources

Dive deeper into nuclear hydrogen

06 FAQs

Have questions? We have the answers.

Can nuclear energy produce hydrogen?

Yes, nuclear energy can produce clean hydrogen in reliable, scalable, and efficient ways. Nuclear energy generates zero-carbon baseload electricity at high-capacity factors (90%, vs. renewable capacity factors that range between 20-40%). That electricity can be used to generate hydrogen through water electrolysis, the same process that is used to generate hydrogen from renewable energy. The high-capacity factors drive down the cost of hydrogen production and create a security of supply for customers. Also, because nuclear energy has a very small geographic footprint, it can produce hydrogen at large scales.

Furthermore, nuclear energy generates not just electricity, but also heat. That heat can enable the use of High Temperature Electrolysis (HTE), a more efficient electrolysis process which can further drive down hydrogen costs.

Several nuclear operators are piloting projects to produce hydrogen at existing sites. Advanced reactor developers are also exploring hydrogen production at the new generation of designs.

Finally, companies and research institutions are also exploring direct thermochemical production of clean hydrogen – a process that uses very high temperatures that can be produced at certain advanced reactors.

Is hydrogen part of the energy transition?

Yes. Hydrogen is essential to decarbonizing the global energy system, including key sectors of the economy that are difficult to electrify, such as heavy trucking, marine shipping, iron and steel, and industrial process heating. Hydrogen emits no carbon dioxide at point of use, and analysts estimate that we may need to increase global hydrogen usage from about 70 million tons today to between half a billion and one billion tons per year by mid-century, representing one quarter of global final energy demand in some decarbonization scenarios.

What is nuclear energy’s role in the energy transition?

Nuclear energy is a critical baseload source of carbon-free energy. For example, nuclear energy provides 52% and 46% of clean electricity in the United States and the EU, respectively. However, 80% of the global energy demand today depends heavily on unabated fossil fuels, with much of this demand coming from sectors that are difficult to electrify. Nuclear energy can produce reliable and scalable heat and electricity that can play a key role in decarbonizing these hard-to-abate sectors.

Is hydrogen generated by nuclear energy considered “clean”?

Although the color scheme was once a popular way to classify different hydrogen production methods, policymakers and the business community have increasingly moved towards classifying hydrogen as “clean” – focusing on the greenhouse gas emissions from production sources. Hydrogen produced from nuclear energy is “clean” in the same way as hydrogen produced from renewable energy, because nuclear energy is a zero-carbon source of electricity and heat.

Can nuclear energy help produce clean hydrogen at a competitive cost?

The costs to produce clean hydrogen via electrolysis today come from the cost of electricity inputs and the costs of fixed equipment spread over the actual annual production levels. As nuclear energy generation has a much higher capacity than that of intermittent sources like wind and solar, those fixed costs are spread over much larger production volumes, reducing total production cost and supporting an affordable and attractive clean hydrogen generation model.