Using Nuclear Energy for Future Hydrogen Production
Nuclear fission energy is one of the most powerful and long-sustaining types of energy that does not produce carbon emissions. This well known fact is one of the reasons why nuclear reactors are commonly chosen as the “cleaner” energy source for very large urban areas (compared to coal power plants).
Aside from its wide-scale economical applications, there is also another “green” use for nuclear energy aside from raw electric power generation. This application deals with maximizing all the thermal energy that is released as the reactor remains in operation. It is a proposal, to use the nuclear reactor to power today’s global hydrogen production.
Lightening the Burden of Inefficiency
As it was already realized many decades ago, hydrogen as a raw source of power is practically impossible, primarily because you cannot extract, obtain or produce hydrogen without expending an amount of energy that is significantly higher than the energy needed to mine and transport coal. This means that even if hydrogen fuel cells possess special advantages that make it better and more reliable than other alternative sources of energy, it would never actually become as commercially competitive as modern batteries that are charged using wind or solar energy.
Of course, this does not mean that we don’t have good technology options today. As of now, the easiest way to produce hydrogen without releasing carbon emissions is by using hydroelectric and geothermal energy. These two energy sources circumvent the economic efficiency issue by using the fact that these are both efficient sources of inexhaustible energy.
Why Use Nuclear Power?
But while these two alternative energy sources provide a solution to continually produce hydrogen at a relatively sufficient rate, it still does not completely solve the challenge of increasing hydrogen production to a level where it could potentially support an entire hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure. Eventually, the traditional “green” extraction method would probably reach a theoretical threshold limit that would make a geothermal or hydroelectric power plant incapable of producing the regularly needed amount of hydrogen.
This is where the idea of using nuclear energy comes in. Nuclear energy, unlike other conventional alternative energy sources is capable of producing a huge amount of energy in just a short amount of time. This makes it the ideal energy source that could accelerate hydrogen production to economically competitive levels regardless of the growing demand.
A basic idea to use nuclear power for hydrogen production is by using the nuclear reactors’ excess heat energy, in the same way as how it is used in a cogeneration process to provide heat for various purposes. The production process would most likely use the collected heat energy to both turn water into steam and power a heat engine that would direct an electrolyzer to separate the steam into oxygen and hydrogen.
The idea of using nuclear power to produce hydrogen is getting more and more accepted today as scientists and researchers search for the most practical solution that would solve both this planet’s environmental problems and the looming energy crisis. In fact, even if safety regulations and other traditional limitations are still there to significantly reduce the economic efficiency of nuclear fission energy, producing hydrogen would probably still be on the list of the default things that future fourth generation nuclear reactors would be designed to do.
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