NuScale Small Reactor Has Non-Energy Applications

NuScale small modular reactor can be used for flexible power operations, hydrogen production, process heat and power for oil refineries, and water desalination. Its technology is so far the first and only SMR undergoing the US regulatory process.

NuScale has also studied the potential for hydrogen production for fuel cell vehicles and other industrial applications. One 60 MWe NuScale Power Module (NPM) could power about 70,000 fuel cell vehicles, he said. Similarly, coupling of a NuScale plant to a 250,000 barrel per day oil refinery could bring a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Load Following and Industrial Heat

Each NPM can bypass 100% of its steam output to its condenser or to an industrial process, such as hydrogen production or industrial heat. By adjusting the valve position on the steam turbine, the NPM electrical power output can increase from 12 MWe (20%) to 60 MWe (100%) in 27 minutes or reduce power from 100% to 20% in 10 minutes, he said. In this mode, the thermal power of the NPM – 200 MWt – remains constant, which permits the transition from electric power production to thermal power production for industrial processes.

This feature also allows for rapid load following.

Hydrogen production

Given the currently low cost of natural gas in the USA, he said, steam-methane reforming is the most common method there of producing hydrogen.

“It requires combustion of roughly 10-15% of the methane in the feed stream to generate the heat and steam necessary to split the remainder of the methane; consequently, the resulting emission of CO2 is a concern,” he said. “Alternatively, electrolysis can dissociate water or steam into a clean source of hydrogen and oxygen.”

High-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) is an emerging technology, he said, and is about 40% more efficient than conventional water electrolysis. NuScale worked together with researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to study the technical and economic feasibility of producing hydrogen using the HTSE process coupled to a six-module NuScale plant.

“Based on the analysis performed by INL, it was determined that a six-module NuScale plant implementing 50 MW modules would produce approximately 190 metric tons of hydrogen and 1500 metric tons of oxygen per day,” he said. “Of significant interest was the result that only 1.15 MW, or only 2.4% of the total power output, was required to raise the steam outlet temperature from 300 degrees Celsius to 800 degrees at the mass flow rates required for the HTSE process.

Oil refineries

NuScale Power and Fluor Corporation conducted a preliminary technical and economic assessment to evaluate the feasibility of using NPMs to support oil recovery and refining processes, reducing the overall carbon footprint of these industrial complexes and preserving fossil resources as feedstock for higher value products. Their assessment considered a representative refinery sized to process 250,000 barrels/day of crude oil.

The 10-module NuScale plant is competitive with the reference case for natural gas prices as low as USD5/MBtu even with no CO2 tax.

The capital investment for the NuScale plant can be recovered in 25 years if the natural gas cost exceeds USD9.5/MBtu without a carbon tax, or USD7.5/MBtu with a USD40/Mt CO2 penalty.

By providing both process steam heat and electrical power, a 10-module NuScale plant would reduce CO2 emissions from the refinery by about 40% or roughly 200 Mt/hr.

NuScale is about USD900 million into the development of its SMR design and they have 485 patents.

24 thoughts on “NuScale Small Reactor Has Non-Energy Applications”

  1. H2 production equipment and an H2 rated pipeline would be an additional expense and that is if you were running it as close to 24/7 as possible.

    Occasional use like on weekends? It just doesn’t add up; it would be too expensive.

  2. NuScale is planning on using normal Westinghouse ceramic PWR fuel bundles.

    Qualifying a new reactor design and a new fuel design is regulatory madness.

  3. I think that everyone’s graphite moderated reactors were either for bomb material or grey areas. US, UK, Russia.

  4. There is no historical precedence that nuclear material from a commercial nuclear reactor has ever been used to make a nuclear bomb.

  5. Adding nuclear energy produced hydrogen to hydrocarbon pyrolysis could triple the production of methanol from urban garbage and sewage, agricultural hydrocarbon waste, and hydrocarbon waste from forest. Methanol can also be converted into gasoline for automobiles, making gasoline derived from renewable methanol carbon neutral.

    Using methanol for– peak load– power production in natural gas electric power plants modified to use methanol would make the grid totally carbon neutral.

  6. Since the entire fracking ponzi industry hasn’t made a nickel in 12 years nobody knows what the real cost of gas is in the US. As well you probably forgot to cash in GHG’s and all the dead/sick folk from gas air pollution.

    We need to eliminate fossil fuel use if we are to survive.

    Nuclear Hydrogen can fill in for hard to electrify industrial heat and transportation applications with synfuels.

    The operating cost of a dirty deadly combined cycle gas plant is about 4 cents a kWh. That’s about the all in cost of the clean nuscale plant if financed by public power.

  7. like most American’s you have never heard of Celsius.

    “or only 2.4% of the total power output, was required to raise the steam outlet temperature from 300 degrees Celsius to 800 degrees”

  8. They have the momentum and backing to see if they can prove a manufacturing learning curve by unit 12 or so

  9. I did a 6-pack, not 12. And then priced in onsite eventual dry-casking.

    Thats what the hydrogen numbers used – 6.

  10. Last I heard they were thinking of moving to fuel that was ~20% enriched. Where would they get that from and how would that work into the economic analysis? Or was that just bad info?

  11. Each NuScale NPM will load 12-13 new fuel assemblies and discharge as many, every 24 months. If a fuel assembly with a 12′ fuel stack costs $1.2M, then a NuScale fuel assembly with 6′ fuel stack costs MORE than $0.6M. There is 12 NPM at proposed NuScale site.


    So, NuScale plant will spend $43.2M on fuel every year – this is for all 12 units (NPM). Nameplate capacity for the 12-pack is 0.780GWe gross methinks.

    $30M is low.

  12. I agree with everything except your last sentence. Note that there are many players in the world and none of them, not the Russians, not the Koreans, etc., are ‘moving beyond obsolete’ water reactors….

    The tech isn’t the problem. Russians and Chinese build them competitively… problem lies with our 1st world society like a tiger raised in a zoo that can’t hunt and would starve if released in the woods.

  13. Yep. Some plants do have the condenser that can take full steam. Thanks for the insight about combustion turbines and boilers.

  14. At $1 per kg of hydrogen that’s like $70 million per year of hydrogen for a $1.5 billion 300MW plant that costs $30 million per year just to fuel and store spent fuel.

    2.66% return means it is not going to happen except at like a $100 per tonne CO2 tax.

  15. There are some combustion turbine power plants that use 100% steam turbine bypass to the condenser to stay on-line if the steam turbine trips. This is a short-term operation, as the combustion turbine also rapidly reduces power. Generally also have a boiler damper to divert gas turbine exhaust away from the boiler. In some cases, external fans supply air to the boiler as well. This configuration used where high reliability is required.

    In general, reactor plants do not cope well with rapid transients, being better suited for base-load and slow maneuvering applications. The NUSCALE folks would do well not to claim they can cope with the rapid power changes generally found in providing peaking support to the grid. You got to know your limitations.

  16. INL needs to quite trying to do an SMR. Let DOE NE push another national lab for a SMR that has a chance (SRNL or ORNL?) and licence it by DOE and not NRC. I’m starting to get sick of INL failing. GTMHR, NGNP, now NuScale but already setting the stage to give up on that and move to the Variable Test Reactor; can anyone else name a few of INL’s (and DOE NE’s by extension) recent failed reactors? I put the blame here fully on DOE NE and the political corruption involving the national labs that is just as bad as with NASA.

  17. Mark my words, NuScale is another paper reactor. Now they are trying to pivot to hydrogen production. That was just hyped in the early 2000’s. But I guess it follows, since SMR’s were last hyped in the late 1990’s. I’m getting to old, I’m starting to see the hype cycles repeating.

  18. Or you could just install a combustion turbine that maneuvers at 75 MW per minute and costs a small fraction of a NUSCALE plant. Also, easily and routinely supports providing process steam.
    Dumping steam to a condenser is financially dopey, as you are wasting money.
    A NUSCALE plant cannot produce the high temperature steam needed for high temperature steam electrolysis, roughly +1400 F. The NUSCALE plant is limited by the highest temperature of reactor, which is less than half of what is needed.
    Unclear what one is suppose to do with costly hydrogen produced by nuclear power. There is no distribution system or any particular wide scale use. Transportation needs are easier met by fossil fuels and the emerging electric vehicles. In both cases, the distribution system already exists.
    The cost of natural gas is well below $5 per MMBTU. The NUSCALE plant cannot even remotely compete with modern combustion turbine power plants.
    If nuclear is ti compete, need to move beyond the inefficient, costly, and obsolete water reactor technology.

  19. “or alternatively, a plant could be designed to ground-out part of the electrical output in the yard in a big stove-top heating element in order to “load follow”.”

    I’ve always envisioned giant electrical discharges… giant bolts of lightning. Totally wasteful but rather cool looking.

    I don’t think anybody does this because nuclear is meant to generate base load power, not to do load following.

    If they can generate H2 on site(ish) then things are simpler as the Hydrogen production takes the surplus power from the Grid.

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