College of Engineering Office of Research

General Information

Original and modified content below used with permission from Richard D. Boardman, Idaho National Lab (INL), and Amgad Elgowainy, Argonne National Lab (ANL).

Reducing Carbon Emissions with Nuclear Energy

The Light Water Reactor System (LWRS) Program has added the Flexible Plant Operations and Generation (FPOG) Pathway to its portfolio of research to develop new markets for the U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors.  This Pathway is currently applying process modeling and systems optimization tools to evaluate the technical feasibility and economic benefits of dynamically utilizing a portion of the nuclear plant’s electricity and thermal energy to produce non-electrical products, including hydrogen. Integration of LWR-H2 hybrids can provide a role for nuclear power plants as a primary source of energy for production of low-carbon fuels, ammonia, steel and ethylene (two of the largest commodities produced in the United States). Hydrogen is a key energy currency and can provide pathways to effectively incorporate nuclear energy into existing or new U.S. industries, as illustrated in Figure 1. Potential benefits include:

  • storage of energy in hydrogen for use in a dynamically-controlled, optimized smart grid;
  • increased biofuels yields from biodigesters and ethanol plants;
  • reduced life cycle emissions from hydrogen-synthesized ammonia;
  • reduced carbon footprint for hydrogen-reduction of raw iron ore;
  • elimination of CO2 emissions for ethylene production; and
  • synthetic natural gas (SNG) production from nuclear-produced hydrogen and waste CO2 generated in ethanol production.

 Flexible Plant Operations and Generation (FROG) pathway

Figure 1: Products made with nuclear-produced energy as a primary input.

Last Updated: 12/27/19