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IAEA Meeting Assesses Economics of Nuclear Hydrogen Production

Experts attending the Technical Meeting on Assessing the Economics of Nuclear Hydrogen Production Using the IAEA's HEEP, Mumbai, India, 16-18 November 2015. (Photo: GCNEP)

Assessing the economics of nuclear hydrogen production using the IAEA Hydrogen Economic Evaluation Programme (HEEP) was the focus of a technical meeting, organized by the IAEA in collaboration with the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) and held in Mumbai, India, on 16-18 November 2015.

"There is potential for using nuclear energy in hydrogen production," said Ibrahim Khamis, IAEA Scientific Secretary of the meeting. "Producing hydrogen by nuclear electricity or nuclear heat would open the application of nuclear energy for the transportation sector and reduce its reliance on fossil fuel."

Annual worldwide hydrogen production amounts to more than 50 million tons, mainly used to produce ammonia for fertilizers and in crude oil refining processes. Today, hydrogen is mainly produced by natural gas reforming. Demand for hydrogen is expected to increase in the coming years, as several promising applications are considered, e.g. as a future energy provider and as a chemical agent in the refining of crude oil, production of chemicals and synthetic gas, and ore reduction.

The economics of hydrogen production depend on a variety of parameters including capacity, scale and availability of the plant, cost of raw materials, efficiency of the technology employed, early or mature development stage, and the physical distance to end-use markets.

The meeting participants shared information on the economics of hydrogen production, including prospects and challenges of nuclear hydrogen production, and assessed current research and development activities, such as promising technologies for hydrogen production. They also discussed the market potential and economics of nuclear hydrogen production and provided feedback on the IAEA HEEP for future updates.

The IAEA HEEP is increasingly recognized as an international tool for the assessment of nuclear hydrogen production but also for conventional hydrogen production including storage and transportation.

"HEEP serves as an excellent interactive tool for training and education on hydrogen production as it provides users with an intuitive graphical user interface and allows them to treat nuclear power generation, hydrogen generation, transport and storage within a single package," explained Mr Khamis.

HEEP can be used for a wide range of technologies; it supports hydrogen generation as well as cogeneration with electricity. Electricity purchases and sales to the grid can be automated as necessary. A number of inbuilt algorithms can be used to estimate costing values using technical input from the user.

HEEP is distributed by the Nuclear Power Technology Development Section and is freely available from the IAEA Website.

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