Power conversion unit studies for the next generation nuclear plant coupled to a high-temperature steam electrolysis facility



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Texas A&M University


The Department of Energy and the Idaho National Laboratory are developing a Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) to serve as a demonstration of state-of-the-art nuclear technology. The purpose of the demonstration is two fold: 1) efficient low cost energy generation and 2) hydrogen production. Although a next generation plant could be developed as a single-purpose facility, early designs are expected to be dual-purpose. While hydrogen production and advanced energy cycles are still in their early stages of development, research towards coupling a high temperature reactor, electrical generation and hydrogen production is under way. Many aspects of the NGNP must be researched and developed to make recommendations on the final design of the plant. Parameters such as working conditions, cycle components, working fluids, and power conversion unit configurations must be understood. Three configurations of the power conversion unit were modeled using the process code HYSYS; a three-shaft design with 3 turbines and 4 compressors, a combined cycle with a Brayton top cycle and a Rankine bottoming cycle, and a reheated cycle with 3 stages of reheat were investigated. A high temperature steam electrolysis hydrogen production plant was coupled to the reactor and power conversion unit by means of an intermediate heat transport loop. Helium, CO2, and an 80% nitrogen, 20% helium mixture (by weight) were studied to determine the best working fluid in terms cycle efficiency and development cost. In each of these configurations the relative heat exchanger size and turbomachinery work were estimated for the different working fluids. Parametric studies away from the baseline values of the three-shaft and combined cycles were performed to determine the effect of varying conditions in the cycle. Recommendations on the optimal working fluid for each configuration were made. The helium working fluid produced the highest overall plant efficiency for the three-shaft and reheat cycle; however, the nitrogen-helium mixture produced similar efficiency with smaller component sizes. The CO2 working fluid is recommend in the combined cycle configuration.