E-Ammonia Production from Nuclear Power
This report presents the results of a study to evaluate the cost feasibility of a large scale nuclear fueled production facility for producing ammonia, which may have relevance. as a sustainable marine fuel. The primary aim of the project was to estimate the cost basis of producing ammonia using nuclear, in order to form a basis for cost comparison with solar/wind-based ammonia production plants. The scope of work entailed cost estimation based on process optimization, whereas other key assessments, e.g., regulatory risks and technological maturity, were not investigated in detail.
Electro-fuels are anticipated to play an important role in reaching global decarbonization targets. In the shipping industry, decarbonization will require substantial amounts of these e-fuels (such as e-ammonia and e-methanol), which in turn will require large capacities of electricity generated with low emissions.
However, solar and wind power still carry substantial investment costs, and e-fuels produced from them will cost 3x-4x higher than today’s fossil alternatives, according to techno-economic modeling from the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping.
Additional costs may depend on geographic constraints (such as transport to distant demand centers), and in some cases the land use might be prohibitive, since wind and solar bear significant installation footprints.
Considering these cost elements and implementation challenges, modern nuclear power may potentially provide a beneficial alternative. Molten salt reactors (MSRs) represent one potential opportunity for providing reliable and scalable energy supply, if the technological hurdles can be overcome within the timeframe of industry decarbonization.
MSRs may provide several advantages over other renewables: the base power output of MSRs is continuous instead of intermittent, the infrastructure occupies small footprints; and implementation is much less constrained by the natural resources of in a given geographical location –
the main requirement being availability of cooling water for steam turbine operation. Additionally, the design of MSRs enables them to operate without the same control complexity that conventional nuclear reactors employ to address safety risks.
Therefore, MSRs may represent a viable alternative for producing sustainable electro-fuels— pending the technology’s own challenges of commercial readiness and government regulation.
The costs of producing ammonia based on a proposed plant design were calculated for a large scale plant, to capture economies of scale: a total capacity of 10 million tons of ammonia product annually, corresponding to a total plant energy requirement of ~12 GWe.
Our analysis showed that nuclear fueled ammonia production could be economically feasible, having costs in the same range as future wind- and solar- powered ammonia production. As a result, nuclear fueled ammonia production could provide a viable alternative to wind and solar, especially in situations where land availability is constrained.