Global coalition launches Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative


A global coalition of more than 40 participants launches the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative on Tuesday to advance the development of these technologies.

Why is this important: Using nuclear energy to generate hydrogen gas is a way to store energy to power trucks, factories and other hard-to-decarbonize sectors of the economy.

The big picture: Hydrogen is promising, but faces obstacles such as the huge amounts of electricity needed to produce it and the effects of hydrogen on the atmosphere in the event of a leak.

  • NHI companies are looking to cut costs by combining hydrogen production with nuclear. This would use electrolyzers to take water and split it into hydrogen and oxygen.
  • The group plans to pursue nuclear hydrogen demonstration projects, engage the financial sector to fund these technologies, and advocate for policies that support the deployment of nuclear hydrogen, members told Axios. It is not a lobbying organization, however.

Enlarge: Members range from environmental groups like the Clean Air Task Force to companies designing next-generation nuclear power plants, such as X-energy.

  • Others include nuclear power plant operators Entergy and Constellation, government entities such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and Idaho National Lab, and hydrogen supply chain players Bloom Energy, Cummins and Siemens.

What they say : “Today, the global hydrogen market is about 70 million tons of hydrogen per year. By 2050, that number could reach between 500 million and one billion tonnes of hydrogen produced per year,” Carlos Leipner, who leads the global nuclear energy strategy at the Clean Air Task Force, told Axios.

  • “It will require an enormous amount of energy,” says Leipner, indicating that nuclear power plants are a promising way to generate large amounts of electricity at low cost.

Yes, but: Hydrogen gas is an indirect contributor to near-term global warming, according to Ilissa Ocko, senior climatologist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

  • Hydrogen can increase the amount of methane, ground-level ozone and stratospheric water vapor in the air, each of which increases warming, Ocko tells Axios.
  • Hydrogen’s influence on global warming has been largely overlooked, due to its short atmospheric lifetime compared to carbon dioxide.
  • Once this is taken into account, Ocko says: “It becomes clear that hydrogen is a much more powerful warming agent than previously thought.
  • She urges groups to work to limit hydrogen leakage from manufacturing and transportation infrastructure.


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