DOE awards research funds for offshore nuclear generation

31 August 2022

Core Power, MIT Energy Initiative and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have been granted research funds by the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) for a three-year study into the development of offshore floating nuclear power generation in the USA.

The DOE earlier announced its intention to fund and develop regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across the USA, one of which must be powered by nuclear. Funding would come from the USD1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hydrogen hub programme is a USD8 billion programme to bring together stakeholders to help drive down the cost of advanced hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilisation across multiple sectors in the economy. In 2021, the DOE also launched the Hydrogen Shot to cut the cost of clean hydrogen to USD1 per 1 kilogram of clean hydrogen in one decade, referred to as '1-1-1'.

UK-based Core Power said the NEUP funding will allow detailed collaborative research into the economic and environmental benefits of floating advanced nuclear power generation and take a granular look at all aspects of building, operating, maintaining and decommissioning such facilities.

"It is an important step forward for Core Power to be working with the world-renowned MIT Energy Initiative," said the company's Chairman and CEO Mikal Bøe. "We believe this will help us take the next step in bringing ground-breaking new nuclear technology to the maritime market.

"This NEUP project will among other things look at how a nuclear-powered H2Hub off the coast of the US could set the scene and demonstrate how we make hydrogen production, safe, cheap and reliable by placing the production unit offshore."

According to Core Power, "In many parts of the world, there are strong expectations of using green hydrogen as a source for making zero-carbon transportation fuels and replacement heat for green steel production. Green hydrogen must be made from water by electrolysis, and the best place to do so is at sea. There we are surrounded by an infinite heat-sink, have access to an endless supply of water, and we can scale the size of our installation much more easily than we can on land."

"As the US moves to decarbonise diverse industries, including shipping, we will have to explore and understand novel applications of technologies like nuclear and hydrogen production," added John Parsons, the Principal Investigator on the project and Associate Director for Research at MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy. "This NEUP project will help us do that."

The DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) created the NEUP in 2009 to consolidate university support under one initiative and better integrate university research within NE's technical programmes. NEUP engages US colleges and universities to conduct R&D, enhance infrastructure and support student education.

The programme supports projects that focus on the needs and priorities of key NE programmes, including fuel cycle, reactor concepts and mission-supporting research. The research will run in parallel to proof-of-concept prototype reactors currently being developed at INL.

In November 2020, a multinational team including Core Power, Southern Company, TerraPower and Orano USA applied to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the DOE's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme to build a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade marine reactor based on molten salt reactor technology.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News