Evaluating the safety and regulatory aspects of the combined nuclear/chemical complex for Hydrogen production
Schalkwyk, Gerhardus Petrus
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Recently there has been an exceptional resurgence of interest in the nuclear power industry and the cogeneration of hydrogen from nuclear process heat and electricity, with climate change and energy security the main drivers for the implementation of these technologies. Nuclear-assisted hydrogen production technologies include electrochemical, thermochemical and hybrid-thermochemical options that respectively require electricity, high-temperature process heat and both electricity and high-temperature process heat from the nuclear reactor. Although the current commercial fleet of nuclear reactors are able to supply in the requirements of the electrochemical technologies, high-temperature nuclear reactors (HTR) are required for the thermochemical and hybrid-thermochemical options. The unique safety characteristics of Gen-IV HTGR technologies, such as the PBMR, favour their use in future energy-generation scenarios, especially with regard to process heat applications. Hydrogen production as process heat application is uniquely capable of alleviating concerns regarding energy security and sustainable development while supplying in the energy requirements of a growing population and economy. Hydrogen is relatively environmentally benign as fuel constituent or secondary energy carrier in the so-called hydrogen economy and is able to complement or even substitute fossil fuels in future energy markets, especially in the transport and industrial sectors. Regardless of the benefits of nuclear-assisted hydrogen production technologies, barriers ranging from technological and economical feasibility to safety and regulatory concerns exist that require to be addressed if these technologies are to be successful. In this regard, the purpose of the study is to investigate all safety and regulatory aspects associated with a combined nuclear/chemical complex such that they may be evaluated according to their attendant risk and probability to impede implementation of the technology. Of fundamental importance is the connection and co-location of the two critical facilities, especially considering the hazardous chemical inventories present at the chemical facility, the consequences of a nuclear accident and the use of the final product (hydrogen) by consumers.
- Engineering