Those involved with advanced reactors are well aware of the issues associated with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel: advanced reactors need HALEU to operate, but the U.S. doesn’t have domestic production capabilities to make it.  And there’s a “chicken” and “egg” issue to solving this problem—fuel cycle facilities don’t want to commit the resources towards developing a HALEU supply chain until they know they have an established market.  The established market cannot emerge until the reactors are built, and they cannot run without fuel.  We have blogged about this issue many times over the years, including developments in trying to stand up U.S. HALEU production capabilities (See, e.g., here).

What is HALEU?  Traditionally, the U.S. nuclear power plants are powered by uranium enriched up to 5% with uranium-235—the main fissile isotope that produces energy during a chain reaction.  HALEU is still low enriched uranium, but between 5-20%.

Who uses HALEU?  Most advanced reactor developers intend to rely on HALEU fuel.  Among other things, the higher enrichment levels enable the reactors to have a smaller design, better fuel utilization, and longer fuel cycles.  Both the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) awardees—TerraPower and X-energy—use HALEU fuel.  These projects are expected to be completed by late 2027/early 2028, and they will likely not be able to procure their enriched uranium in the U.S.  Overall, the domestic nuclear industry anticipates it may need nearly 600 metric tonnes of HALEU by 2030 in order to deploy new reactors to market.

HALEU can also be used by the existing fleet, with the nuclear industry expressing interest in using fuels for light water reactors (LWRs) enriched between 5-10%.  Some advanced fuel developers are also looking at new LWR fuel designs at just under 20% enrichment levels.

Who makes HALEU commercially for advanced reactors?  Currently, no one in the U.S.

Is that a big deal?  Yes, because it undermines U.S. energy independence and security.  Also, HALEU production capabilities are very limited globally.  The only current options right now?  Pretty much just Russia.

Are we starting from scratch?  No, but it will take time to stand up a domestic production source. There is one operating uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico—Urenco—that makes uranium enriched up to 5.5%, but advanced reactors use HALEU much closer to the 20% threshold.  Urenco could expand its existing facility to add in HALEU production—the company is exploring this option as we have previously blogged about—but that is a time intensive and expensive task. Another company—Centrus—has been working with the Department of Energy to develop a new enrichment technology that could support HALEU production, but according to the company’s last quarterly report the project has experienced some delays and DOE may not continue funding through the operational phase without a competitive bid of some sort.  And in any event, a full-scale facility would still need to be licensed and constructed before being able to supply HALEU commercially.

What’s government’s role?  The Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting HALEU development.  In December 2021, DOE issued a Request for Information (RFI) for public input on its planned program to ensure domestic availability of HALEU for the U.S. fleet (responses to DOE’s RFI are due on February 14, 2022).  The Energy Act of 2020 authorized DOE to establish a program for domestic sourcing of HALEU for research, development, demonstration, and commercial use. We summarized the Energy Act provisions in a previous blog post.  The stalled Build Back Better legislation would have funded this program with $500 million (also summarized in a previous blog).

Recent developments: This month, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) issued a white paper on “Establishing a High Assay Low Enriched Uranium Infrastructure for Advanced Reactors” which outlines their recommendations to support HALEU deployment for advanced reactors before 2030.  And late last month, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff requested Commission permission to undertake a rulemaking to evaluate and amend the NRC regulations related to HALEU for the existing fleet, taking into account enrichment levels of up to 10%.  We summarize both briefly below.

NEI HALEU White Paper

NEI’s white paper walks through many of these issues—setting forth the underling HALEU issue and recommended next steps to developing a domestic production source.  Acknowledging that the greatest hurdle facing this effort is the tremendous upfront capital required—an estimate of more than $500 million for enrichment and deconversion—the paper explains that this capacity will not emerge without a governmental push to create a sustained customer base.

As outlined in the white paper, NEI’s recommendations to support development of domestic HALEU include the following:

  • DOE should expeditiously establish the Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Program authorized by the Energy Act of 2020 (summarized in one of our previous posts) and immediately commence the funding processes, and Congress should provide the requisite funding for this program
  • DOE should incentivize licensing, construction, and deployment of two U.S. commercial HALEU enrichment facilities, through a competitive procurement process
  • DOE and other agencies should not impede acquisition of HALEU by industry from international suppliers within the framework of existing trade agreements, and DOE should consider assisting with HALEU transportation and storage
  • DOE should support and incentivize development and deployment of deconversion facilities
  • DOE should support the certification and manufacturing of new shipping packages for certain HALEU
  • Processing of Experimental Breeder Reactor-II fuel should be expedited

NRC staff requests rulemaking to support domestic HALEU supply chain

In an activity that would impact fuel for the existing fleet, and potentially advanced reactors, on December 20, 2020, NRC staff submitted a memorandum to the Commissioners (SECY-21-0109) that requested permission to undertake formal rulemaking to evaluate the regulations impacting LWR fuel enriched greater than 5%.

The NRC identified at least two regulations that set forth an enrichment limit of 5% that would need to be amended.  In addition, the staff would perform a more comprehensive review of regulations associated with uranium enrichment throughout the life cycle of fuels for LWRs. The goal of this review would be to identify regulations that could be modified to increase flexibility and reduce exemption requests for the use of increased enrichment fuel while maintaining safety.

The staff further explained that while a rulemaking is not necessary to support the licensing of fuel enriched over 5%, the staff is recommending the rulemaking “to reduce unnecessary exemption requests and facilitate increased regulatory efficiency and consistency while continuing to ensure safety.” The rulemaking would also enable the “staff to thoroughly review the potential regulatory implications of increased enrichment fuels and identify and assess the potential costs and benefits of changing regulatory requirements that impact their use” as well as pursue a “generic resolution of these issues.”

While the NRC staff noted in the SECY paper that the LWR community was interested in fuel enriched between 5-10%, the NRC also recognized that advanced reactors intend to utilize greater enrichment levels—something the NRC is reviewing under its advanced reactor Part 53 rulemaking.  The staff explained that it “plans to further evaluate applicability to advanced reactor fuel designs in the regulatory basis to ensure alignment with the Part 53 rulemaking.” And that “if the rulemaking schedule and stakeholder interest align, this rulemaking scope could be expanded, or a separate rulemaking could be initiated for advanced reactor fuel designs.”

For additional information regarding these developments, please contact the blog authors, Amy Roma, Partner, or Rob Matsick, Associate.

On December 16, 2021, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)—the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively—introduced a bill entitled “Fission for the Future” (the “Bill”). The Bill aims to prioritize commercial deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, with an emphasis on siting reactors in communities that have been hardest hit by the retirement of fossil fuel generation facilities.

The Bill would require the Secretary of Energy to create a federal financial assistance program to support the licensing, development, and construction of advanced nuclear reactors. The program’s stated aim is to enhance grid resilience, reliability, and security, as well as reduce carbon emissions. Funding is also intended for supply chain infrastructure tied to advanced nuclear or related technologies. Eligible funding recipients include state and local governments, tribal organizations, electric utilities, National Laboratories, institutions of higher education, and certain private entities specializing in both the development of advanced nuclear technology as well as related licensing and financing processes.

Funding priority is given to applicants with projects planned at or near fossil fuel electric generation facilities that have been retired or are scheduled to retire. This can help reduce infrastructure, transmission, and licensing costs, as well as productively reuse fossil fuel generation facilities and revitalize communities harmed by the closure or planned closure of these facilities.

Further prioritization is intended for certain nonelectric applications, including heat for energy storage, hydrogen or other liquid fuel production, industrial processes, and others.  An applicant’s ability to implement workforce retraining programs and an applicant’s cost competitiveness are other factors that the Bill prioritizes for funding decisions.

In a press release from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chairman Manchin notes the carbon emission and power reliability benefits inherent to nuclear energy, and asserts that advanced reactor technologies provide a unique opportunity to repurpose retired fossil fuel generating plants and help displaced communities with high-paying jobs. As stated in the press release, the median wage for a nuclear reactor operator is over $100,000, and for every 100 jobs created by a nuclear plant, an additional 66 are created in the community surrounding that plant. These facts provide added incentive for communities to work with companies to site advanced nuclear plants across the country.

One example of this type of technology is from the Bill Gates-backed company TerraPower, which plans to build a $4 billion, 345 megawatt Natrium reactor demonstration plant at the site of the Naughton coal plant in western Wyoming that is due to shut down in 2025.  This is a first-of-its-kind advanced reactor—a sodium-cooled fast reactor leveraging technologies used in solar thermal generation, which can operate in sync with certain renewable power sources and take advantage of the existing infrastructure at retiring fossil fuel generation facilities.

As we have written about in this blog before, advanced nuclear energy can support a just transition for communities that were reliant on fossil fuels, including by replacing lost jobs and tax revenues.  For communities looking to make this transition, the Bill could provide some useful support.

For additional information, please contact the blog authors, Amy Roma, Partner, or Rob Matsick, Associate.

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) recently released a report entitled “Life Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Options” (UNECE Report; Report).  The Report analyzes the environmental profiles of the full lifecycle of various technologies in order to evaluate their “all in” environmental costs—such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), human toxicity, water use, and other environmental and health metrics of different electricity sources—including wind, solar, coal, gas, hydro, and nuclear. In a finding that may be very surprising to many, but likely not those in the nuclear field, nuclear had some of the smallest impacts on the environment out of all the electricity sources analyzed.

The UNECE Report emphasized that decarbonization needs to be pursued with a “well-informed energy policy design.”  Report at 6.  To accomplish this, stakeholders need to ensure that the “cradle-to-grave” environmental impacts of electricity generation are evaluated, including mining the materials used in the facilities, manufacturing their components, and constructing, operating, and decommissioning them. Report at 8. Notably, the Report wants to ensure that we do not “shift the problem” by reducing environmental impacts from operating power generation sources, only to shift them someplace else, like to the operations needed to produce the materials for facilities, or to the land requirements needed to support them. Report at 8.

The Report undertook this evaluation for a wide range of electricity generation sources to better inform stakeholders in the decision-making process.  It notes upfront—and in bold—that all electricity generation sources create environmental impacts over their life cycles, and these impacts vary widely across sites and designs. Report at 7. However, as set forth in the Report, of all the electricity sources evaluated, nuclear was found to have some of the smallest impacts to the environment.  Across its entire life-cycle, nuclear power emits less greenhouse gases and uses less land than the other power sources studied, including all variants of wind and solar. Nuclear is also ranked as one of the most environmentally-friendly generation sources—second to only one variant of hydropower—when measured against the other power sources for consumption of mined minerals and metals, carcinogenic effects, and freshwater eutrophication.

As this blog and its authors routinely note, including in our recent blog summarizing the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we must use everything in our arsenal to reduce GHG emissions.  Moreover, we need immense sources of energy that produce minimal greenhouse gases and can support a reliable electricity grid.  This will require the deployment of a range of technologies—including wind, solar, hydrogen, nuclear, battery storage, and carbon-capture and sequestration.  There is no one technology that is a “silver bullet” to combatting climate change.  Difficult decisions must therefore be made by stakeholders, who need objective and thorough supporting research to make informed choices.  As the UNECE makes very clear, all electricity sources impact the environment, and not necessarily in the way stakeholders might realize.

The Report further references the recent IPCC report, stating that because the most ambitious climate mitigation scenarios require electrification of ever-greater swathes of the U.S. and world economy, it is vital to evaluate the environmental impacts of various energy sources for future electricity generation. Report at 6. The UNECE Report did exactly that.  It studied six variations of hard coal technology, two variations of natural gas, two of hydropower, eight of solar power including photovoltaic, three of wind power, and conventional nuclear power.  The Report also assessed twelve regions worldwide, with varying load factors, methane leakage rates, background grid electricity consumption, and other factors.  Its objective was to assess the environmental impacts of delivering one kWh of electricity to the grid, on a global average, for 2020.

Conventional nuclear energy for electricity generation fared supremely well, and nuclear outpaced all or almost all studied generation sources in the following areas:

  • Carbon emissions. The Report’s model found that out of the 22 technologies studied, nuclear had the absolute lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, with an average of just 5.1-6.4 g CO2 eq./kWh (a measure of the GHG emission intensity of electricity generation, with a range to account for technological and regional variations). And it wasn’t even that close.

For comparison, the second-lowest emission intensity is 6.1-11 g CO2 eq./kWh for 360 MW hydropower (a figure that is much higher for 660 MW hydro, at 85-147). Solar photovoltaic ranges anywhere from around 8 to 83 g CO2 eq./kWh, depending on the specific technology and other factors.  Natural gas and coal are of course much higher, with hard coal ranging dramatically from a low of around 150 to a high of roughly 1,100 g CO2 eq./kWh.  Natural gas ranges from 403 to 513 by this metric—also not even in the same ballpark as nuclear.

  • Land occupation. The Report also shows that nuclear technology on average has the lowest lifecycle land occupation requirements out of any technology studied, dramatically lower than all types of coal, natural gas, and renewables.
  • Carcinogenic effects. Contrary to its unfairly-maligned reputation as a source of carcinogens—largely owing to the effects of nuclear radiation from atomic bombs and anachronistic, irresponsible nuclear weapons testing procedures—the production of nuclear power for electricity generation has the second-lowest rate of carcinogenic effects out of the 22 technologies studied. This is behind only 360 MW hydro, but ahead of 660 MW hydro and all other solar and wind variations studied.
  • Freshwater eutrophication. Freshwater eutrophication is caused by emissions of phosphorus compounds into freshwater bodies such as rivers and groundwater. For this metric, nuclear generation is the second best of the 22 technologies studied, again behind only 360 MW hydro, and ahead of all eight solar variations studied and all three wind variations.
  • Consumption of minerals and metals. Once again, nuclear outperformed all other electricity generation sources—both fossil fuels and renewables—except for 360 MW hydro, in its consumption of minerals and metals. The high energy density of the uranium (and sometimes plutonium) used in conventional nuclear reactors leads to a relatively minimal mining area per kWh.

The main downsides to nuclear generation as expressed in the Report are its water use requirements and its ionizing radiation.  However, the Report contextualizes these drawbacks against nuclear’s low carbon emissions and the other striking environmental benefits mentioned above.  And even with respect to radiation, the Report found that coal and geothermal cause more radiation dose to the public than does nuclear—and radiation from all types of studied power generation is far less than the average dose received by airline pilots.

To note, the Report focuses on conventional nuclear generation—as opposed to advanced reactor technologies and fusion—yet conventional nuclear still outshines competing renewable and fossil fuel generation sources on many key environmental indicators.  The gap between nuclear and the rest of the field further widens when one accounts for advanced reactor technologies, not to mention the emerging prospect of commercialized fusion energy.  These technologies have the potential to produce even more impactful environmental advantages for nuclear generation, on top of the significant benefits conventional nuclear power already boasts.

Many variables and detailed analyses went into the UNECE Report, and we recommend it as necessary reading for policy makers and other stakeholders—as well as supporters, opponents, and those still on the fence about nuclear power.  We also recommend it for anyone interested in becoming or staying informed about decarbonization of the electricity sector.  Combatting climate change is a complex task, with multiple facets that need to be understood and woven together into a coherent and effective strategy.  And this requires policy makers coming to the table with a full appreciation of what needs to be achieved.  The Report employs an in-depth quantitative methodology without a corresponding agenda, and is a significant contribution to the energy transition discussion and implementation.

Please contact Amy Roma, Partner, or Rob Matsick, Associate, with any questions or comments.

On December 7, 2021, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) introduced legislation to change the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (“NRC”) fee structure for licensing advanced technology.  The legislation, called the “Accelerating Nuclear Innovation through Fee Reform Act,” H.R. 6154, would amend Section 102(b) of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (42 U.S. Code § 2215(b)), by removing the NRC’s review fees for applications for advanced fission and fusion reactors.

By eliminating NRC review fees for advanced reactor license applications, the legislation aims to accelerate innovation and maximize private sector investment in advanced reactor technologies.

Under the NRC’s existing regulatory framework, the agency charges $288 per hour per person (for FY 2021) to review license applications proposing to build new advanced nuclear reactors.

The legislation, which is supported by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, ClearPath Action, and Third Way, has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and is now pending review.  The Nuclear Innovation Alliance compiled a report in 2021 analyzing the impact of NRC fee reform on public investment.  As explained in the report, under the current fee structure, advanced technology applications can face review costs of up to tens of millions of dollars—or higher—creating a disincentive to companies developing technologies and a hurdle to bringing novel concepts to market.  The report also describes how the NRC’s current fee system “poses a barrier” to advanced nuclear innovation by limiting NRC’s resources, flexibility and efficiency.

While H.R. 6154 would certainly lessen an administrative burden for applicants, one possible adverse impact may be that if the NRC removes these fees and has to rely on annual appropriations for conducting application reviews.  If funding falls short, or one application disproportionately takes up too many resources, it could result in unfair allocations for other applicants.

For more information, please contact the blog authors, Amy Roma, Partner, and Stephanie Fishman, Associate.

On Friday, November 19, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the President’s roughly $2 trillion budget reconciliation package, voting 220 to 213 in favor of H.R. 5376 the Build Back Better Act (“Reconciliation Bill”), kicking the bill over to the Senate. While the bill is not final, it demonstrates a clear commitment for clean energy, aligning with the clean energy commitments in the recently enacted $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act  (“Infrastructure Act”), which was signed into law on November 15, 2021.

What happens next? The draft Reconciliation Bill is now in the Senate where revisions to the House-passed bill are expected and passage is not certain. Democrats are using the “reconciliation” procedure that would permit the bill to be approved in the Senate with just 50 votes, which would eliminate the need for support from Republicans.  But Democrats have no room for dissent—with exactly 50 Democratic Senators, every Senator and the Vice President, with her tie-breaking vote in the Senate, will need to support starting debate on the draft Reconciliation Bill and ultimately passing it.  A few Democrats have voiced concerns about various provisions in the bill and have not yet indicated their support.

The Democrats hope to bring the bill to a vote before Christmas, but it will likely go through some further revisions before that happens.  If the Senate makes changes, the legislation will be sent back to the House for a “take it or leave it” review.

What clean energy provisions are in the draft Reconciliation Bill? Generally, the latest version of the draft Reconciliation Bill includes roughly $550 billion for climate and clean energy programs to curb fossil fuel emissions, more than $320 billion in green energy tax incentives, close to $41 billion in energy-related programs, and covers a spectrum of spending from clean electricity production credits, eligible to facilities with carbon emissions at or below zero, to a federal “Green Bank,” a national greenhouse gas reduction fund meant to assist state banks contributing to clean energy.

And like the Infrastructure Act, which we discussed in a prior blog post (available here), the House-passed draft Reconciliation Bill contains substantial nuclear fission and fusion related provisions.

The proposed nuclear and fusion provisions in the draft bill are summarized below:

  • New production tax credit (PTC) for operation nuclear power plants. The bill creates a new PTC recognizing the zero-emissions benefits of nuclear power and intending to keep existing nuclear plants running. The bill adds a new provision to the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986, as amended (IRS Code), section 45W, titled “Zero-Emission Nuclear Power Production Credit.”  (Section 136108; pages 1402-1409).  Generally, this new PTC credit rate is equal to a base credit of 0.3 cents/kWh produced at a qualifying nuclear facility and sold to an unrelated person during the taxable year (with the credit decreased by 16% of  excess gross receipts as power sale prices increase).  (Pages 1403-1404).

The credit is available for nuclear facilities that have not already claimed a credit for advanced nuclear power facilities under the existing IRS Code section 45J and that were placed in service before the date that the legislation is enacted.

  • Funding for the availability of fuel for advanced reactors. The draft bill appropriates $500 million for the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) advanced fuel availability program for high-assay low enriched uranium (“HALEU”), as was authorized by section 2001 of the Energy Policy Act of 2020, which initially allocated $33 to $39 million in annual funding.  (Section 90002; page 942). This program enables DOE to support HALEU for advanced nuclear reactors.  The bill directs DOE to use a competitive process, to the maximum extent possible, to carry out the program. (Page 943).  We discussed the HALEU provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2020 in a prior blog post (available here).
  • Fusion funding.  The draft Reconciliation  Bill also appropriates significant funds to support fusion R&D and demonstration.  As explained in a prior blog post, the Energy Policy Act of 2020 authorized a number of programs to support fusion commercialization.  The draft bill provides roughly $885 million for fusion R&D spending, with $325 million for a new milestone-based public-private partnership program, previously authorized by the DOE Research and Innovation Act (42 U.S.C. 18645(i)), $200 million for fusion materials R&D, $140 million for research and technology development in inertial fusion for energy applications, $200 million for alternative and enabling fusion energy concepts, and $20 million to initiate fusion reactor system design activities.  (Section 90001; pages 940-941).  The goal of the milestone-based program is to incorporate best practices from other cost-share partnerships, and for private  companies to build demonstrations in partnership with government entities to establish a new clean energy source.

A number of U.S. startup companies have made significant announcements pertaining to private sector investment in the past couple months, including Helion Energy, which announced the close of its $500 million Series E, with an additional $1.7 billion of commitments after that tied to specific milestones totaling $2.2 billion, and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), which said it has raised more than $1.8 billion in investment.  Helion is building a prototype that it intends to demonstrate net positive electricity by 2024, a key milestone to commercializing fusion.  CFS intends to complete its prototype facility in 2025.

  • Support for transitioning energy communities. The draft bill includes $1 billion, authorized by section 209 of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 3149), to provide economic support for development and job creation in distressed markets and communities.  (Section 110009; page 1036).  Of that amount, $240 million is for providing assistance, including grants for technical assistance, planning, and predevelop activities, to energy and industrial transition communities, including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and biomass transition communities, and manufacturing transition communities.. (Section 110009; pages 1039-1040).

While the climate spending promised in the draft Reconciliation Bill is less than the $600 billion in the original draft, its current structure still makes up the largest spending category in the bill.

For more information, please contact the blog authors, Amy Roma, Partner, and Stephanie Fishman, Associate.

 

 

On Monday, November 15, 2021, the President signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Infrastructure Bill” or the “Bill”), which contains a number of provisions supporting nuclear energy.

On November 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan US$1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill in a 228-206 vote, demonstrating one of United States’ largest commitments to decarbonization and creating significant opportunities for nuclear in the current energy transition.  The legislation first passed the Senate in August 2021, but was stalled in the House as Democrats negotiated key components of President Biden’s agenda.

While the Infrastructure Bill is wide-reaching, it includes a number of nuclear energy-related provisions, including support for keeping nuclear power plants facing economic hardship operating and funding for DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).  These provisions are briefly summarized below:

  • US$6B civil nuclear credit program. The Bill establishes a civil nuclear credit program designed to preserve the existing nuclear fleet and prevent premature shutdowns of nuclear power plants. This provision is anticipated to preserve immense amounts of carbon free electricity as well as high-paying jobs.  The Bill both authorizes and appropriates US$6 billion through FY 2026 (US$1.2 billion per year) to the Department of Energy (“DOE”) to implement the program—therefore this program is fully funded. (Section 40323; pages 591, 594.)

The program is intended to provide support for economically troubled plants so that they can remain open.  Plant owners/operators would need to apply for the program, explaining their need.

Interestingly, in applying for the credit, applicants must provide “known information on the source of produced uranium and the location where the uranium is converted, enriched, and fabricated into fuel assemblies for the nuclear reactor for the 4-year period for which credits would be allocated.” In awarding the credits, the Secretary of Energy “shall give priority to a nuclear reactor that uses, to the maximum extent available, uranium that is produced, converted, enriched, and fabricated into fuel assemblies in the United States.” (Pages 592-93, emphasis added).

According to an E&E article, DOE promised to start the US$6 billion nuclear credit program within about four months from November 2021 to help keep U.S. reactors operating, and will require plant owners to submit a formal application to demonstrate a justifiable need.

  • Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) Support. The Bill includes both authorization and appropriations for DOE’s ARDP program, one of DOE’s most important programs for advanced nuclear.  The ARDP is intended to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S. industry.  Specific support in the Bill includes the following:
  • Authorizes the full amount to support the DOE’s ARDP Demonstration projects. The Infrastructure Bill contains funding approvals for DOE’s ARDP Demonstration projects and authorizes US$3.2 billion through FY 2027 for the advanced reactor demonstrations, which combined with the previously authorized funding from FY 2020 and 2021, makes the demonstration projects fully authorized.  Note, this provision is an authorization and not an appropriation. (Section 41002; page 699).
  • Appropriates US$2.4 billion to fund ARDP awards from FY 2022 through 2025. While Congress had previously appropriated funds to support DOE’s ARDP awards for FY 2020-2021, this provision of the Bill appropriates additional funds for existing ARDP awardees for FY 2022 to FY 2025. These funds are limited to “projects selected prior to the date of enactment of this Act” which would appear to reserve funds for all ARDP projects selected to date. Unlike the US$3.2 billion which is authorized for the advanced reactor demonstration awards, this funding may be used for the risk reduction and advanced reactor concept projects as well.  (Section 41002; page 949).  While this appropriation does not fully fund the ARDP awards already issued throughout the lifetime of the award, it does go a significant of the way there.

For context, DOE has three types of ARDP awardees:

  • Advanced Reactor Demonstrations Projects, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor by the end of a seven year term. DOE-NE has selected two awardees under this program. The ARDP currently authorized US$2.5 billion across seven years for two cost-sharing agreements—i.e. US$1.23 billion for each awardee—for nuclear reactor demonstrations that were first funded through fiscal year 2020 appropriations, with US$80 million provided in the first phase of the cost sharing plan.  The Bill officially appropriates funding for the rest of the seven year term for the selected awards.
  • Risk Reduction for Future Demonstrations, which supports up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities. The goal of the Risk Reduction program is to design and develop safe and affordable reactor technologies that can be licensed and deployed over the next 10 to 14 years. DOE-NE has selected five awardees under this program and in 2020 DOE stated it expects to invest US$30 million for each awardee in the first year of the award.
  • Advanced Reactor Concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which supports innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s. The goal of the ARC-20 program is to assist the progression of advanced reactor designs in their earliest phases. DOE-NE has selected three awardees under this program, and in 2020 DOE stated it expects to invest a total of US$56 million in ARC-20 over four years, with industry providing at least 20 percent in matching funds.

Other nuclear provisions of the Infrastructure Bill include the following:

  • Establishes an Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations within DOE. The Bill establishes a new Office of Clean Energy Demonstration (“OCED”) within DOE to conduct project management and oversight of the ARDP demonstrations and other covered clean energy demonstration projects, to include providing independent oversight of project execution, independent cost estimates for proposals, and ensuring a balanced portfolio of investments in covered projects.  (Section 41201; pages 702, 949).

The Bill provides US$21.5 billion for the OCED.  According to a DOE Fact Sheet, the US$21.5 billion includes the $8 billion for clean hydrogen hubs, US$10 billion for carbon capture, 1 billion for demonstration projects in rural areas and US$500 million for demonstration projects in economically hard-hit communities.  The Bill also designates US$2.5 billion for advanced nuclear to the OCED, which appears to be the same funding authorized for the ARDP.

Currently the Office of Nuclear Energy has jurisdiction over ARDP, however, it appears that the new OCED is intended to cover all clean energy demonstration projects, which would include ARDP demonstration projects.  How this structure will work remains to be seen, but we anticipate the Office of Nuclear Energy will maintain jurisdiction over the ARDP projects until the new office is fully operational, so as to not introduce project delays, and that the two offices will ultimately work together to leverage the technical expertise in the Office of Nuclear Energy with respect to the ARDP projects. Further, the Bill states that the OCED shall consult and coordinate with technology-specific program offices to ensure alignment of technology goals and avoid unnecessary duplication. (Page 948).

  • Demonstration program for regional clean hydrogen hubs, which include nuclear. The Bill establishes “hydrogen hubs” with a number of different power sources The hubs are intended to (1) demonstrably aid the achievement of the clean hydrogen production standard; (2) demonstrate the production, processing, delivery, storage, and end-use of clean hydrogen; and (3) can be developed into a national clean hydrogen network to facilitate a clean hydrogen economy.  At least one of the regional clean hydrogen hubs must be to demonstrate the production of clean hydrogen from nuclear energy. The Bill appropriates US$8 billion in total for the Clean Hydrogen Hubs. (Section 40314; page 580-81).  Additional details on hydrogen and nuclear can be found here.
  • “Clean energy” project on current and former mine lands. The Bill authorizes a new clean energy demonstration on mine lands program and appropriates US$500 million for the program.   “Clean energy” is defined to include advanced nuclear. (Section 40342; pages 603-04).
  • Advanced reactor siting feasibility studies for isolated communities. The Bill authorizes assistance for feasibility studies for siting advanced reactors for the purpose of identifying suitable locations for the deployment of micro-reactors, small modular reactors, and advanced nuclear reactors in isolated communities. (Section 40321, subpart (d); page 589).
  • Property interests for advanced reactors. The Bill provides federal government authority to transfer real property for advanced reactor demonstrations and authorizes longer term protections for intellectual property related to nuclear technology used in demonstrations. (Section 40322; page 589-90).
  • Changes to DOE Loan Program related to calculating “reasonable prospect of repayment.” The Bill made changes that are expected to make the DOE Loan Program more usable by reducing the credit subsidy costs that borrowers must pay. (Section 40401; pages 605, 609).

Overall, nuclear is well supported in the Infrastructure Bill.  In addition to the nuclear-related provisions embedded in the Infrastructure Bill, the “Build Back Better Act” agenda still pending in Congress could provide even more benefits to the nuclear industry if it becomes law by including a production tax credit for operating and new nuclear plants.

For more information, please contact the blog authors.

To demonstrate its clean energy commitments ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, the United Kingdom (UK) recently published its national strategy on fusion energy (Fusion Strategy) alongside a paper on the proposed regulatory framework (Fusion Green Paper), making the UK the frontrunner in fusion energy legislation.  As indicated in the Prime Minister’s “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” published in November 2020, the UK government seeks to develop innovative technologies to end its contribution to climate change, including doubling down on the goal of being the first country to commercialize fusion energy technology.

Fusion Strategy Highlights:

The Fusion Strategy highlights the need to consider fusion energy technology in helping the UK meet emissions targets and address the increasing domestic electricity demand, which is expected to double to 570-630TWh by 2050.  The Fusion Strategy also explores how the UK could leverage its expertise to create commercially viable fusion energy, and launches the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), a program to build a prototype fusion plant in the UK by 2040 in one of five shortlisted locations.  The Fusion Strategy highlights the importance of governmental support in creating an environment conducive to innovation in the fusion sector and outlines how the UK will invest in fusion-related high skilled jobs via the expansion of the fusion apprenticeships, setting a target of training 1000 apprentices per year in fusion-related fields by 2025.

Fusion Green Paper Highlights:

Alongside the Fusion Strategy, the Fusion Green Paper focuses on a proposed regulatory structure for fusion energy and requests public consultation on the framework.  Public consultation, similar to soliciting public comment in the U.S., will ensure fusion energy facilities are regulated appropriately and proportionately in the UK to maintain public and environmental protections, provide public assurances and enable the growth of this low carbon energy industry.  The UK intends for the Fusion Green Paper to serve as a regulatory roadmap for fusion developers to plan with confidence, and for the public to understand the basis for the Government’s approach to the regulation of the emerging technology

The UK government aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion by building the STEP prototype by 2040, which it hopes will be the world’s first.

A number of fusion projects are being pursued around the world.  Notable fusion opportunities were discussed in a prior blog, as well as in our overview on fusion for space exploration.  There are a number of fusion companies in the U.S., with a couple companies currently building prototypes and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission evaluating the regulatory framework for fusion. There are also a number of fusion companies across Europe.  China is also reportedly hoping to stand up an experimental nuclear fusion reactor running by 2040.

For more information, please contact blog authors.

On October 21, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight & Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing titled “Judicious Spending to Enable Success at the Office of Nuclear Energy.”  A recording of the hearing is available here. Key witnesses at the hearing included Dr. Katy Huff, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr. Todd Allen, Department Chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, University of Michigan, Mr. Scott Amey, General Counsel and Executive Editorial Director, of the Project on Government Oversight, and Hogan Lovells Partner, and blog author, Amy Roma.

Amy’s testimony from the House Subcommittee hearing can be found here.  Amy’s current appearance follows testimony she provided to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in March 2021, as well as an testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in August 2020.

As explained in Amy’s testimony, the benefits of nuclear power include—

  • U.S. economic interests, including creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and enabling the U.S. to participate in a robust market of nuclear trade.
  • Climate change goals, by providing over half of the U.S. carbon-free power and supporting a just transition to clean energy; and
  • U.S. national security objectives, by promoting U.S. safety, security, and non-proliferation standards globally, and strengthening U.S. influence abroad.

There are many domestic ventures in next-generation nuclear technologies and new opportunities being created every day. While these endeavors take various forms and incorporate different advanced designs and technology, one common theme is the robust list of benefits advanced nuclear can provide the U.S. if adequately supported. And we should want to take advantage of our position at the forefront of this technology: the market opportunity is immense and the stakes of climate change are too big.

Nuclear energy—

  • Supports the U.S. economy. The nuclear industry supports nearly half a million jobs in the United States and contributes about $60 billion to the U.S. GDP annually.
  • Is a non-greenhouse gas emitting power generation source, and a crucial tool in the battle against climate change. As the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes clear, the world needs to take on a “full court press” in decarbonization. The electricity and industrial sectors account for about half of GHG emissions. Nuclear power could be used to decarbonize both.
  • It has the ability to provide clean, affordable, and reliable power around the world, helping raise the global standard of living, including for the nearly billion people in the world without access to electricity, and promote energy independence and grid stability.
  • The world electricity demand is expected to double globally by 2050, presenting a huge market opportunity for the U.S. in the trillions of dollars; and
  • Advanced reactors have a wide range of sizes and applications beyond power generation, in addition to helping decarbonize the electricity and industrial sectors, it can be used to desalinate water, produce hydrogen, and support deep space exploration and space colonies.

We cannot harness this opportunity without the government and industry working together. The U.S. Department of Energy’s support for advanced reactors, including the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Advanced Reactor Program (ARDP), is a critical part of this support. This program was discussed in a prior blog. The demonstration of advanced reactors through cost shared partnerships with U.S. industry, and the three different demonstration pathways the ARDP offers, solidify this opportunity as pivotal to supporting widespread advanced nuclear deployment in the commercial markets both in the U.S. and abroad. Currently the program is being used to support 10 different reactor projects, including two that are expected to be deployed by the end of 2027.

For more information, please contact blog authors.

Hogan Lovells is changing how we deliver our content. On November 15 we will be moving this content to our new technology platform: Hogan Lovells Engage.

Subscribers will soon receive an email with details on how to join us on Engage to continue to stay up-to-date on the latest developments for the nuclear industry. We look forward to seeing you there.

The U.S. has made significant commitments to decarbonize its electricity sector by 2035 and its economy by 2050.  As the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report highlights, following through on these commitments cannot come soon enough to combat the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.  One theme this blog continually emphasizes is the need to use all tools at our disposal to combat climate change, including combining tools, such as renewables and nuclear power.

One very promising tool that has received a lot of attention lately, and which can be teamed with nuclear, is hydrogen production.  Nuclear power plants can supply the required heat and electricity to produce hydrogen without generating any carbon emissions.  Using nuclear in place of current energy alternatives in process heat applications, such as those required in hydrogen production, can also result in price stability and increased energy security.  Nuclear produced hydrogen can either be used as fuel for generators based on combustion or sold for industrial purposes.  As markets incorporate renewable sources of energy and the demand continues to vary – falling during the day and peaking in the early evening as people return home from work – it is becoming more difficult to sustain the supply-demand balance.  The operational flexibility and reliability enable nuclear plants to respond to seasonal demand shifts, hourly market pricing changes, and make a nuclear hydrogen combination appealing.

Increasing U.S. government support for hydrogen.  As the U.S. Government moves forward on delivering its climate change commitments, hydrogen has gained a center seat at the table discussing decarbonization of the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors—which combined account for nearly 77 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.  For example—

  • The White House demonstrated support for hydrogen in the American Jobs Plan, announced on March 31, highlighting hydrogen as part of the plan’s “climate-focused research” and “climate R&D priorities.” It is clear that diversifying the production and cost of clean hydrogen, a fuel that could reduce dependence on sources that emit greenhouse gases, is a priority across the federal agencies.
  • On April 8, the Department of Energy (DOE) set a goal to produce hydrogen with clean power, such as leveraging production with renewables and nuclear energy plants for production.
  • And on June 7, DOE unveiled its plan, the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot, to lower costs and advance clean hydrogen technologies by reducing the cost of clean hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per kilogram within one decade. During the subsequent press briefing, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated “clean hydrogen is a game changer,” and that it will help “decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs.”

Further support for hydrogen appears in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Infrastructure Bill”), introduced by the Senate on August 1, 2021.  The Infrastructure Bill, an approximately $1 trillion bipartisan package, uniquely set a large amount of money aside for the development of hydrogen-based power systems, allocating $8 billion for a regional hydrogen hub that will produce, transport, and store lower-carbon forms of hydrogen over a five-year period.

What is hydrogen and why is it so appealing?

Hydrogen is a simple element, the lightest on the periodic table consisting of just one proton and one electron, but it can pack a powerful punch.  Hydrogen fuels the stars, including our own sun, which is the ultimate source of the vast majority of the Earth’s energy, and it can be used across different industries.  And while hydrogen can be produced – or separated – from a variety of sources, currently, close to 95 percent of hydrogen in the U.S. is produced from natural gas.  However, if produced at scale from renewables like solar, wind, or even nuclear energy, its application to other sectors will contain low carbon emissions in addition to its low carbon production.  Hydrogen’s diverse application and clean properties make it an ideal fuel alternative in the fight against climate change.

To combat climate change, hydrogen has three key uses:  energy production, industrial use, and transportation.

  • Hydrogen is useful as an energy source and fuel because it has the highest energy content of any common fuel per unit of weight – three times more than gasoline.  Additionally, hydrogen can store and deliver usable energy, and hydrogen fuel cells create immense electricity.  This is why it is used in rocket fuel and to produce electricity on some spacecraft.  To create a hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen reacts with oxygen across an electrochemical cell similar to that of a battery to produce electricity, water, and small amounts of heat.  Many different types of fuel cells are available for a wide range of applications.  For instance, small fuel cells can power laptop computers, cell phones, and military devices, and large fuel cells can provide electricity for backup or emergency power in buildings and supply electricity in places that are not connected to electric power grids.  The electricity sector accounts for about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.  Therefore, relying on hydrogen as a standalone energy source has great potential for widespread use while being an environmentally friendly alternative.
  • Industrial: Similar to energy, the industrial sector accounts for 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and heavily relies on fossil fuels to create the extreme and consistent temperatures required for the production of steel, cement, and chemicals.  While wind and solar may never achieve these particular temperatures, hydrogen can, creating a significant opportunity for hydrogen.  According to DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center, the majority of hydrogen consumed in the U.S. is used by industry for refining petroleum, treating metals, producing fertilizer, and processing foods.  Companies across industrial sectors, such as ammonia, cement, ethylene, and steel companies, could bring their carbon emissions close to zero with a combination of approaches.  The most promising approaches include energy-efficiency improvements, the electrification of heat, and the use of hydrogen made with zero-carbon electricity as a feedstock or fuel.  While the optimum mix of decarbonization options will vary between sectors, in some circumstances it is cheaper to use hydrogen for fuel at newly built ammonia or steel plants than to use carbon capture storage.
  • Transportation. The transportation industry accounts for nearly 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, making it an ideal candidate for the incorporation of hydrogen. The interest in hydrogen as a transportation fuel is based on its potential for domestic production and use in fuel cells for high efficiency, zero-emission electric vehicles.  As mentioned, a fuel cell is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.  And several S. vehicle manufacturers have begun making light-duty hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles available in select regions of California where there is access to hydrogen fueling stations.  Most hydrogen-fueled vehicles are automobiles and transit buses that have an electric motor powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, and few of these vehicles burn hydrogen directly.  The high cost of fuel cells and the limited availability of hydrogen fueling stations have limited the number of hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

While there are other sectors that could contribute to decarbonization commitments, the above three are currently the largest greenhouse gas emitters and sectors where hydrogen-use will demonstrate quantifiable and tangible impacts.  For instance, for the energy industry, when faced with unpredictable weather events, hydrogen will be critical to strengthening the nation’s grid system.  For the industrial sector, hydrogen is used in refining petroleum, treating metals, producing fertilizer, and is a prime ingredient in rocket fuel.  And for transportation, when hydrogen is combusted in an engine or consumed in a fuel cell, it combines with oxygen to form water.  Thus, a car running on hydrogen is primarily emitting water vapor as a waste product.

The Catch?  Hydrogen has a dirty secret.  Despite its immense promise, hydrogen’s dirty secret is that hydrogen’s carbon footprint really depends on how the hydrogen is produced.  In fact, there is an entire color spectrum of types of hydrogen classified by the way it is produced.  Since hydrogen is not found in free form (H2), it must be separated from other molecules like water or methane, using energy sources.  Nearly all hydrogen currently comes from energy produced with fossil fuels or natural gas, where it is bonded with carbon, separated by a process called “steam reforming” and the excess carbon generates carbon dioxide.  This type of hydrogen is referred to as “grey” hydrogen to indicate it was created from fossil fuels without capturing the greenhouse gases.  Its widespread use in industrial processes makes grey hydrogen one of the most common forms, accounting for roughly 95 percent of the world’s production and emitting about 9.3kg of CO2 per kg of hydrogen production.  With that said, if hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, we won’t be able to transition away from fossil fuels and it still releases significant carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

To combat climate change and reach decarbonization, the hydrogen production process itself must be clear—and therefore, the current challenge is to produce hydrogen in a more environmentally friendly way.  Luckily, hydrogen can be produced with lower-carbon methods.  For example—

  • Hydrogen is considered “blue” when the emissions generated from the steam reforming process are captured and stored underground by industrial carbon capture and storage. While blue hydrogen reduces CO2 emissions, 10-20 percent of the CO2 is not captured, and so while it is a “low carbon” option, it does not go far enough to meet the commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Green hydrogen is produced using electricity generated from renewables and currently accounts for 1 percent of hydrogen production. Green hydrogen is a more environmentally-friendly option compared to grey and blue because wind, solar and hydro power are zero-carbon sources.  However, it may be difficult to achieve widespread deployment for this type of hydrogen production because of the intermittent nature of renewables and the cost.  Despite its decarbonization potential, green hydrogen must achieve cost competitiveness. In 2020, the pricing for green hydrogen was around US$6.00 per kg and a Hydrogen Council study identified US$2.00 per kg as the price point that will make green hydrogen and its derivative fuels the energy source of choice.
  • Finally, pink hydrogen is used to describe hydrogen obtained through nuclear energy which emits virtually no pollutants. In fact, an Applied Energy study concluded that hydrogen produced via nuclear energy has a comparable carbon footprint to hydrogen produced with renewables.

Advantages of combing nuclear power with hydrogen.  Hydrogen is increasingly seen as a key component of future energy systems if it can be made without carbon dioxide emissions.  Support for this endeavor is demonstrated by the “Clean Hydrogen Research and Development Program” and the clean hydrogen hubs established in the Infrastructure Bill.  For example, the Infrastructure Bill provides US$8 billion in spending to create at least four “regional clean hydrogen hubs” producing and using the fuel for manufacturing, heating and transportation.  At least two would be in U.S. regions “with the greatest natural gas resources,” and at least one of the regional clean hydrogen hubs is required to demonstrate the production of clean hydrogen from nuclear energy.

There is a clear push for the production of clean hydrogen to come from diverse energy sources, to include nuclear energy.  For instance, the Infrastructure Bill includes a section called “National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap” which requires the identification of (1) economic opportunities for the production, processing, transport, and storage of clean hydrogen that exist for merchant nuclear power plants operating in deregulated markets, (2) the environmental risks associated with deploying clean hydrogen technologies in those regions, and (3) mitigation of those risks.

In addition to the nuclear hydrogen hub in the Infrastructure Bill, DOE has partnered with a number of nuclear power plants to demonstrate the technical feasibility and business justification for hydrogen production at nuclear facilities.  For instance—

  • Arizona Public Service Co. is currently working with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to employ advanced hydrogen production from surplus electricity at the Palo Verde Generation Station.
  • Exelon Generation announced its plan to work with DOE on a hydrogen production demonstration project at Nine Mile Point, where a containerized Proton Exchange Membrane electrolyzer will be installed using the plant’s existing hydrogen storage system to capture and store hydrogen for industrial applications in the market.
  • FirstEnergy Solutions and INL will develop a light water reactor hybrid energy system to demonstrate hydrogen production at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Plant. And NuScale is investigating cogeneration options, including hydrogen production by high-temperature steam electrolysis with INL.

Acknowledging the low carbon footprint associated with using nuclear energy for hydrogen production, DOE selected projects to advance flexible operations of nuclear reactors with integrated hydrogen production systems.  These projects include low-temperature steam electrolysis, which improves the efficiency of electrolysis at ambient temperatures and utilizes waste heat at up to 200°C from a conventional reactor, and high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) to use both heat and electricity.

Another one of the DOE projects involves INL working with Xcel Energy to demonstrate HTSE technology using heat and electricity from one of Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants.  DOE’s Expressions of Interest for this project were discussed in a previous blog post.

Nuclear power plants and hydrogen production systems are well aligned to give nuclear an economical and environmental advantage over traditional hydrogen production energy sources.  This is because nuclear energy can supply the heat and electricity required for hydrogen production without generating carbon emissions, which may create largescale opportunities for nuclear energy. Largescale opportunities would in turn, provide an additional revenue stream, potentially reviving aging fleets in certain markets and creating more time to get advanced reactors online.  According to an Energy Options Network study, meeting the energy demands of the U.S. maritime transportation industry by 2050 alone, would require 650 gigawatts of advanced nuclear reactors for hydrogen production.

Advanced nuclear power plants are evolving and undergoing technological advances to make them more flexible.  At the same time, hydrogen generation is undergoing technical advances to become more versatile, and as the energy market evolves, hydrogen production is gaining global visibility and political support.

There are already international nuclear-hydrogen initiatives underway. The IAEA has developed the Hydrogen Economic Evaluation Program (HEEP) to assess the economics of large-scale hydrogen production using nuclear energy.  And in February 2021, the United Kingdom Nuclear Industry Association published the Hydrogen Roadmap, showing how the country might achieve 225 TWh (6.8 or 5.7 Mt) of low-carbon hydrogen by 2050.  The Roadmap proposes 12-13 GW of nuclear reactors of all types using high-temperature steam electrolysis and thermochemical water-splitting to produce 75 TWh (2.3 or 1.9 Mt) of hydrogen by mid-century.  Additionally, Russia is planning a new hydrogen industry by 2024, where Rosatom will produce hydrogen by electrolysis and is planning 1 MW of electrolyzed capacity at the Kola nuclear power plant in 2023, then increasing it to 10 MW as a demonstration project for wider adoption.

The promise of decarbonization and a cleaner, greener energy future is within reach.  This is especially true when looking at the collaboration between the public and private sectors, both domestically and abroad.  Leveraging all available carbon-free sources for hydrogen production, including nuclear, will just be another big step in the caron-free direction.

For more information, please contact the blog authors.