Going nuclear on hydrogen: DOE backs pilot project in partnership with four major utilities
- January 1, 2023: Vol. 10, Number 1

Going nuclear on hydrogen: DOE backs pilot project in partnership with four major utilities

by Mike Consol

How is this for an energy tradeoff: Build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor to produce 150,000 tons of hydrogen per year?

That estimate comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, which believes hydrogen could replace natural gas in the nation’s effort to energy emission-free by 2050. In that scenario, hydrogen would be used in fuel cells to produce electricity, as well as to fuel trucks and aircraft. The problem: Producing hydrogen at large scale and low cost has yet to be figured out. Hence the promise of using nuclear power to produce hydrogen in abundance.

That explains why DOE has drafted plans to fund such projects at four nuclear generating stations in partnership with Constellation Energy, Energy Harbor, Bloom Energy, Xcel Energy and Arizona Public Service. The goal is to develop a vigorous and inexpensive hydrogen market to help wean the United States off carbon-based fuels.

The price tag for the pilot projects is $7 billion with a vision toward establishing six to 10 regional hydrogen production centers to generate, store and distribute hydrogen across the nation — assuming the test projects prove successful.

Today, natural gas is used to produce about 95 percent of U.S. hydrogen. Zero-emission hydrogen can be produced through low- and high-temperature electrolysis by splitting water into pure hydrogen and oxygen using high-temperature electrolyzers. Nuclear reactors appear to be ideal facilities for such alchemy, according to DOE, because they produce emissions-free heat around the clock.

The first nuclear-powered clean hydrogen production facility in the United States will be the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Power Station in Oswego, N.Y., thanks to a 2021 grant awarded by DOE to plant operator Constellation Energy, which will build a low-temperature electrolysis system at the facility and use the hydrogen to help cool the plant.

The Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, is working on a similar system. Production is expected to begin this year, and the goal of the project, says DOE, is to prove the technical feasibility and economic benefits of clean hydrogen production, which could facilitate future opportunities for large-scale commercialization.

By contrast, Bloom Energy and Xcel Energy are engineering a novel project to, by early 2024, create high-temperature electrolysis at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Red Wing, Minn.

DOE is in negotiations with Arizona Public Service and PNW Hydrogen to demonstrate another low-temperature electrolysis system at the Palo Verde Generating Station in Tonopah, Ariz. The hydrogen would be used to produce electricity during times of high demand or make chemicals and other fuels That project could start producing hydrogen in 2024.


Mike Consol ( is senior editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter (@mikeconsol) and LinkedIn ( to read his latest postings.


Forgot your username or password?