Hydrogen production using high temperature nuclear reactors : A feasibility study

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Tillämpad kärnfysik


The use of hydrogen is predicted to increase substantially in the future, both as chemical feedstock and also as energy carrier for transportation. The annual world production of hydrogen amounts to some 50 million tonnes and the majority is produced using fossil fuels like natural gas, coal and naphtha. High temperature nuclear reactors (HTRs) represent a novel way to produce hydrogen at large scale with high efficiency and less carbon footprint. The aim of this master thesis has been to evaluate the feasibility of HTRs for hydrogen production by analyzing both the reactor concept and its potential to be used in certain hydrogen niche markets. The work covers the production, storage, distribution and use of hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles and aviation and as chemical feedstock for the oil refining and ammonia production industry.

The study indicates that HTRs may be suitable for hydrogen production under certain conditions. However, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier necessitates a widespread hydrogen infrastructure (e.g. pipe-lines, refuelling stations and large scale storage), which is associated with major energy losses. Both mentioned industries could benefit from nuclear-based hydrogen with less infrastructural changes, but the potential market is by far smaller than if hydrogen is used as an energy carrier. A maximum of about 60 HTRs of 600 MWth worldwide has been estimated for the ammonia production industry. The Swedish refineries are likely too small to utilize the HTR but in the larger refineries HTR might be applicable.

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