Westinghouse Explores Clean Hydrogen Production at Nuclear Power Plants

September 20, 2023 by Westinghouse Electric Company

The demand for carbon-free hydrogen fuel is expected to grow tenfold by 2050, as the race is on to transition away from fossil fuels and hydrogen produced by fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel is made for uses in fertilizer, transportation and heavy industries like steel and iron production. 

Currently, about 95% of hydrogen is created through a process that uses fossil fuels. But there are new methods being developed to create “clean hydrogen,” which is seen as part of the solution to achieve global decarbonization and net-zero commitments. Picture1-Sep-08-2023-06-08-33-7527-PM

Clean hydrogen can be produced through several processes, and Westinghouse has embarked on one of the most promising paths toward large-scale production.

As a global leader in the nuclear industry, Westinghouse is defining the role nuclear power will play in clean hydrogen production. We are exploring the use of water electrolysis at existing Light Water Reactors and in our advanced reactor designs to create as much as 150,000 tonnes of clean hydrogen per year from a single reactor.

Electrolysis is the process of using electricity to split water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen.

Ongoing research by Westinghouse has already led to some exciting breakthroughs and partnerships as we work to realize the full potential of the nuclear industry’s role in producing hydrogen. An award recently announced by the U.S. Department of Energy will help fund the next phase of our electrolysis implementation.

Planning for the Future
Westinghouse has been focused on a carbon-free method of extracting hydrogen from nuclear reactors using a process called high-temperature steam electrolysis. We use electrical and thermal energy from the nuclear plant to power the electrolysis process and enable clean, reliable hydrogen production on a large scale.

Westinghouse’s team of experts has completed a conceptual design integrating a hydrogen island into the Westinghouse AP1000® nuclear reactor.

Our research and development have confirmed the feasibility of diverting thermal and electrical energy from an existing Generation III PWR nuclear power reactor to a 100MW hydrogen production plant, sometimes called a hydrogen island.

The ability to produce hydrogen at existing nuclear power plants will be a great benefit for several reasons, including emissions-free fuel and a new revenue stream for plant owner-operators. Other exciting opportunities to use nuclear power to create important and needed products abound, and clean hydrogen is one in which Westinghouse is leading the way.

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