Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located in Tonopah, Arizona.

Idaho National Laboratory is partnering with the country’s largest commercial nuclear energy facility to combat climate change and bring the nation closer to a carbon-free future.

The lab announced in a Monday news release it was partnering with company PNW Hydrogen, based in Phoenix, Arizona. The company is an affiliate of Pinnacle West Capital Corp.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced it was providing $20 million in funding to PNW Hydrogen to explore the use of nuclear energy to produce clean hydrogen via electrolysis in a Oct. 7 news release.

“Developing and deploying clean hydrogen can be a crucial part of the path to achieving a net-zero carbon future and combating climate change,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk in the DOE news release.

INL said in its news release the lab and PNW Hydrogen will use a low-temperature electrolysis system to produce clean hydrogen fuel from electricity generated by the Palo Verde Generating Station — the largest source of carbon-free energy in the U.S. The hydrogen produced will then be used to help fuel a natural gas-fired power plant owned by Pinnacle West’s electric subsidiary, Arizona Public Service.

Electrolysis is option for carbon-free hydrogen production from renewable and nuclear resources by using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The hydrogen produced also can potentially be stored for use when customer electricity demand exceeds supply.

“This project, and others like it, align with the mission of INL and DOE to sustain the existing fleet of operating light water reactors and support the pipeline of future advanced nuclear power systems,” said Bruce Hallbert, director of DOE’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program, based at INL. “These projects demonstrate the versatility of nuclear power to meet the demands for energy and energy products while achieving reductions in carbon emissions to the environment.”

Similar projects are already underway with a consortium led by INL and Arizona Public Service, the release said. One project includes a $10 million DOE award given to Minnesota-based Xcel Energy in October 2020 to help produce electrolysis at nuclear power plants. INL was also involved in a 2019 project at Energy Harbor Generation’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, Ohio to demonstrate how hydrogen production facilities could be installed at the station.

On June 7, DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm launched the first Earthshot Initiative that seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen to decarbonize the industrial sector and move toward a net-zero economy by 2050.

Nuclear power plants can contribute significantly to Earthshot’s goals by generating clean hydrogen, the release said. These projects are key to demonstrating the ability to integrate hydrogen production with nuclear energy.

“By diversifying the uses of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants, we provide additional economic and environmental opportunities for nuclear energy to continue to contribute to our nation’s economy and energy supply mix,” Hallbert said in the INL release, “Those, in turn, provide compelling reasons to continue to operate the existing fleet of light water reactors into the future.”{/div}

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