Rethinking Deployment Scenarios for Advanced Reactors: Scalable Nuclear Energy for Zero-Carbon Synthetic Fuels and Products

LucidCatalyst prepared this study for Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

 

December 2021

 

Abstract

Growing interest in and need for cost-effective, mature, and scalable technology options for decarbonizing the world’s energy markets and infrastructures call for rethinking and reimagining the way in which energy carriers are produced. This study explores how the full potential of nuclear energy can be brought to bear on the intertwined challenges of meeting future global energy demands, maintaining or improving quality of life, and mitigating environmental degradation. 

 

Recent nuclear power plant construction projects in the United States and Europe have been plagued by significant delays and cost escalation. These experiences call into question nuclear energy’s viability as an option for meeting future energy demand and mitigating the effects of emissions on the timeframes and at the scales required. The study seeks to identify potential deployment paths to low-carbon and energy-secure futures through application of the unique combination of attributes offered by nuclear (fission) technology as an energy-dense, dispatchable, non-emitting, and scalable heat source.

The study presents four conceptual scenarios illustrating how advanced nuclear heat sources can be configured, fabricated, and delivered to participate in and decarbonize global fuel and other commodity markets. The scenarios employ innovative deployment models—for the commercial nuclear industry at least—to substantially reduce project cost, schedule, and risk. The first three ship-based models leverage existing or near commercial chemical technologies and processes. Therefore, minimal to no additional technology discovery or innovation is required except for their integration.

 

The fourth land-based, vertically integrated approach is more aspirational in nature, incorporating an on-site construction-installation-operation deployment model. High-temperature operation of advanced non-light-water reactors is leveraged for highly efficient production of hydrogen via a less mature thermochemical process.

 

The produced commodities are intended to provide drop-in substitutes for large, established markets to minimize or eliminate disruption of an existing supply chain infrastructure and consumer behavior.

 

Acknowledgments

The following organization, under contract to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), prepared this study: 

LucidCatalyst, LLC

Cambridge, MA USA

 

Principal Investigators:

Eric Ingersoll

Kirsty Gogan

Justin Aborn

 

Additional input to and support for this study was provided by the following LucidCatalyst staff, partners, and advisors:

John Herter

Andrew Foss

Rick Jefferys

Charles Peterson

Robert Varrin

Michael Middleton

Romana Vysatova

Jane Pickering

 

This technical brief describes research sponsored by EPRI. The report was greatly improved by the thorough review of and guidance on techno-economic assessments from Neil Kern of EPRI’s Energy Systems and Climate Analysis group. The study also benefitted from the thoughtful review by and valuable input from subject matter experts, including:

David Devanney (Thorcon International)

Jacopo Buongiorno (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Mark Tipping and Vince Jenkins (Lloyd’s Register)

Henri Paillere (International Atomic Energy Agency)

Canon Bryan (Terrestrial Energy)

Michael Ford (Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory)

 

> View this study on EPRI website

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