Liquid Fuels from Nuclear Hydrogen

Hydrogen can be produced at high efficiency (~50%) from nuclear reactors that can produce high-temperature heat, such as the liquid-fluoride thorium reactor. Typically the hydrogen is generated from water using thermochemical processes and catalysts such as sulfur and iodine. With water as the feedstock, no CO2 or greenhouse gases are released during the hydrogen generation.

My friend Charles Forsberg of the Oak Ridge National Lab sent me a paper he recently wrote on the uses of nuclear-generated hydrogen. I was especially interested in the potential uses of nuclear hydrogen to generate liquid hydrocarbon fuels from carbon feedstocks such as biomass and coal.


An excerpt from his paper reads:

if economic hydrogen is available from non-greenhouse-emitting sources and the energy for the fuel processing does not release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the atmospheric carbon CO2 emissions from liquid-fuel production per vehicle mile (unit of liquid fuel) can be lower than that available today from light crude oil. With nuclear hydrogen, this conversion process can become the following:

Carbon-based feedstock + Water + Nuclear energy ? Liquid fuels (2)

When nuclear energy is used (reaction 2), no CO2 is released from the fuel production process. All the carbon is incorporated into the fuel, and the carbon in the feedstock is not used as an energy source in the liquid-fuel production process. Carbon dioxide is thus released only from the burning of the liquid fuels.

Enjoy the paper!

Assessment of Nuclear-Hydrogen Synergies with Renewable Energy Systems and Coal Liquefaction Processes

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