Keywords: carbon dioxide, carbon taxes, electricity economics, gas-cooled reactors, hydrogen production, hydrogen energy, natural gas, nuclear power economics, steam methane reforming, carbon restriction, nuclear energy, high-temperature gas reactors, HTGR, modular helium reactors
Is nuclear power more competitive producing electricity or hydrogen?
Steam methane reforming is the world's dominant hydrogen production technology, using natural gas as both feedstock and fuel, but producing more than 9 kg of CO2 for each kilogram of H2. Natural gas prices between $6 and $8/GJ yield an average hydrogen production cost between $12 and $15/GJ, excluding the cost of CO2. High-temperature gas reactors, e.g. the modular helium reactor, can be configured to produce hydrogen using thermochemical processes with a projected average cost of $15/GJ. Also, spent fuel from modular helium reactors is well suited for very long-term repository storage. However, natural gas prices of $8/GJ make electricity generation from modular helium reactors extremely competitive with respect to combined-cycle gas turbines. Therefore, the modular helium reactor is likely to be more profitable in electricity markets than in hydrogen markets under carbon restriction regimes.