Funding for UK project to store hydrogen using depleted uranium

28 November 2022

A consortium comprising EDF UK R&D, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the University of Bristol and Urenco has been awarded GBP7.7 million (USD9.3 million) in funding from the UK's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop a hydrogen storage solution.

(Image: Urenco)

The funding has been made available from the BEIS GBP1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which aims to accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon technologies and systems.

The Hydrogen in Depleted Uranium Storage (HyDUS) project will demonstrate the chemical storage of hydrogen at ambient conditions by chemically bonding the hydrogen to depleted uranium (uranium-238) to form heavy-metal hydride compounds.

The consortium will develop a hydrogen storage demonstrator, in which hydrogen is absorbed on a depleted uranium 'bed', which can then release the hydrogen when needed for use. It will develop this pilot-scale HyDUS demonstrator as part of the Longer Duration Energy Storage demonstrator programme at the UKAEA's Culham Campus.

"This will be a world first technology demonstrator which is a beautiful and exciting translation of a well proven fusion-fuel hydrogen isotope storage technology that the UK Atomic Energy Authority has used for several decades at a small scale," noted Professor Tom Scott, one of the architects of the HyDUS technology. "The hydride compounds that we're using can chemically store hydrogen at ambient pressure and temperature but remarkably they do this at twice the density of liquid hydrogen. The material can also quickly give-up the stored hydrogen simply by heating it, which makes it a wonderfully reversible hydrogen storage technology."

"This energy storage technology could provide high-purity hydrogen which is essential for key applications such as transportation while also storing hydrogen for long periods with no energy losses," added Dr Antonios Banos, technical lead from the University of Bristol.

Patrick Dupeyrat, EDF R&D Director, said the funding from BEIS "is a clear endorsement of the credibility of the consortium and of the quality of the feasibility study phase". He added: "The novel form of long duration energy storage technology that will be demonstrated in HyDUS has excellent synergies with the nuclear supply chain and EDF's power stations, especially within a future low-carbon electricity system, where flexibility using hydrogen will play a significant role."

"We see HyDUS as an exciting energy storage technology that will help to drive decarbonisation of the national grid," said the UKAEA's Monica Jong. "What's even more exciting is that this is a UK technology and a highly exportable showcase example of how to efficiently cross-bridge technology from the nuclear and fusion sectors into the hydrogen economy proving the UK is still a global leader in energy innovation."

Urenco will contribute depleted uranium, a by-product of the uranium enrichment process, to the project.

"We are proud to be a part of this exciting project which brings together proven fusion technology and a potential commercial use for Urenco's stock of depleted uranium tails to develop a sustainable, low carbon energy storage solution for the emerging hydrogen economy," said David Fletcher, Head of Business Development at Urenco.

According to Urenco, the HyDUS project will deliver a modular demonstrator system within the next 24 months with an ambition to initially install the technology on nuclear sites, thereby enhancing the profitability of nuclear power plants. Later, however, it is hoped that the technology could be more widespread, and used to support transport and heavy industries such as aluminium and steel smelting.

Earlier this month, another EDF-led consortium was awarded UK government funding to investigate the feasibility of using nuclear-generated heat and electricity to create hydrogen for use in the production of asphalt and cement. The Bay Hydrogen Hub - Hydrogen4Hanson project will demonstrate solid oxide electrolysis integrated with nuclear heat and electricity from EDF Energy's Heysham site in Lancashire, England, to provide low-carbon, low-cost hydrogen.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News