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Bloom Energy, national laboratory to test hydrogen generation from nuclear power

Washington — Bloom Energy and Idaho National Laboratory entered into an agreement to test the use of nuclear energy to create clean hydrogen through Bloom Energy's solid oxide, high-temperature electrolyzer, the company said on May 18.

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Bloom is "looking to commence the testing before the end of this year" at INL of a single electrolyzer module, company spokeswoman Erica Osian said May 18. The San Jose-based company did not disclose the production capacity of the test system or its estimated cost.

"When the electric grid has ample power, rather than ramping down power generation, the electricity generated by nuclear plants can be used to produce cost-effective hydrogen in support of the burgeoning hydrogen economy," Bloom said in its statement.

The pilot will help the company establish carbon-free hydrogen generation with the highest efficiency of any electrolyzer in the market, said Venkat Venkataraman, Bloom Energy's executive vice president and chief technology officer.

Bloom noted that its electrolyzer has a higher efficiency than low-temperature electrolyzer technologies, thereby reducing the amount of electricity needed to produce hydrogen.

"The steam supplied to the electrolyzers can also be generated by the thermal energy produced by the nuclear power plant, bolstering the overall efficiency of hydrogen production further," it said.

The company said on its website that its solid oxide fuel cells, versions of which will be used in the test project, have been deployed in applications across sectors such as healthcare, data centers, critical manufacturing and retailers over the past 15 years.

Each 360-kW hydrogen production module, or electrolyzer, would produce a nominal hydrogen flow of 7.8 kg per hour and would be "remotely managed and monitored by Bloom," the company said on its website.

The capacity of the electrolyzer to be used in the tests at INL might be smaller than production units, Osian said May 18.

The Bloom Energy Server, which will not be part of the INL test, uses the hydrogen produced by an electrolyzer to generate electricity. Each module of that system has a nameplate output of 300 kW and consumes 18.81 kg of hydrogen per hour of operation, the company said.