Title: Is nuclear power more competitive producing electricity or hydrogen?

Authors: Geoffrey Rothwell, Kent Williams

Addresses: Department of Economics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6072, USA. ' Nuclear Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, USA

Abstract: Steam methane reforming is the world|s dominant hydrogen production technology, using natural gas as both feedstock and fuel, but producing more than 9 kg of CO2 for each kilogram of H2. Natural gas prices between $6 and $8/GJ yield an average hydrogen production cost between $12 and $15/GJ, excluding the cost of CO2. High-temperature gas reactors, e.g. the modular helium reactor, can be configured to produce hydrogen using thermochemical processes with a projected average cost of $15/GJ. Also, spent fuel from modular helium reactors is well suited for very long-term repository storage. However, natural gas prices of $8/GJ make electricity generation from modular helium reactors extremely competitive with respect to combined-cycle gas turbines. Therefore, the modular helium reactor is likely to be more profitable in electricity markets than in hydrogen markets under carbon restriction regimes.

Keywords: carbon dioxide; carbon taxes; electricity economics; gas-cooled reactors; hydrogen production; hydrogen energy; natural gas; nuclear power economics; steam methane reforming; carbon restriction; nuclear energy; high-temperature gas reactors; HTGR; modular helium reactors.

DOI: 10.1504/IJNHPA.2006.011249

International Journal of Nuclear Hydrogen Production and Applications, 2006 Vol.1 No.2, pp.154 - 169

Available online: 07 Nov 2006

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