Hy­dro­gen may be pro­duced at nuke plant

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Front Page -

PHOENIX (AP) — Man­agers of a three-re­ac­tor nu­clear plant that went on­line in the 1980s are ex­plor­ing whether pro­duc­tion of hy­dro­gen gas will be part of its fu­ture.

An idea be­ing ex­plored for the Palo Verde Nu­clear Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion is to use sea­son­ally sur­plus elec­tric­ity from the plant lo­cated in the desert west of Phoenix to sep­a­rate wa­ter into oxy­gen and hy­dro­gen gas, the Ari­zona Repub­lic re­ports.

Uses for the gas could in­clude pow­er­ing fuel-cell cars and trucks or pro­vid­ing to nearby nat­u­ral-gas plants that gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity.

The con­tem­plated pro­duc­tion of hy­dro­gen stems from the fact that in­creased avail­abil­ity of so­lar power means Palo Verde’s elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion isn’t needed as much dur­ing mild spring and fall weather as dur­ing the sum­mer when air con­di­tion­ers run full throt­tle in the South­west.

The plant 50 miles west of Phoenix is li­censed to run into the 2040s, but of­fi­cials said they will need to get cre­ative to keep it go­ing that long, or be­yond.

“Some days we still end up with more en­ergy be­ing pro­duced be­cause of Palo Verde and all that so­lar than what we can re­ally use,” said Jack Cado­gan, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of site op­er­a­tions at Palo Verde for Ari­zona Pub­lic Ser­vice Co.

Phoenix-based APS man­ages the plant and is the largest co-owner. Oth­ers are Salt River Project, El Paso Elec­tric Co., South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edi­son, PNM Re­sources, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Power Author­ity and the Los An­ge­les Depart­ment of Wa­ter and Power.

APS of­fi­cials are work­ing with Idaho Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory to re­search the eco­nomic fea­si­bil­ity of hav­ing a hy­dro­gen gen­er­a­tor near Palo Verde. A small test fa­cil­ity could be built near the nu­clear plant in 2021.

Ohio-based FirstEn­ergy So­lu­tions and Min­neapo­lis-based Xcel En­ergy also are par­tic­i­pat­ing in as­pects of the U.S. En­ergy Depart­ment’s re­search into nu­clear plants and hy­dro­gen.

APS and other util­i­ties plan to add sub­stan­tial amounts of so­lar to their sys­tems, and that even­tu­ally will prompt Palo Verde to ei­ther shut down or run at par­tial ca­pac­ity dur­ing mild weather.

“We know that will only grow over time,” Cado­gan said. “We are try­ing to project how do we make Palo Verde more flexible to still be the an­chor point or cor­ner­stone of our cleanair en­ergy mix in Ari­zona and the whole desert South­west? We re­ally do need to fit into the en­vi­ron­ment that is chang­ing.”

Car­do­gan said the En­ergy Depart­ment ap­proached APS with the hy­dro­gen con­cept.

“They came to us on this one and said, it seems like you have a unique is­sue with so­lar kind of pinch­ing nu­clear,” he said. “We said, ‘We do.’”

Un­like other nu­clear plants that use wa­ter from a river or the ocean for cool­ing, Palo Verde uses re­claimed waste­water from a treat­ment plant owned by five Phoenix-area cities.

The cities sell the re­claimed wa­ter to Palo Verde un­der an agree­ment that was re­newed in 2010. The agree­ment runs through 2050.

But the wa­ter gets more ex­pen­sive in the lat­ter years, par­tic­u­larly af­ter 2025, so APS is con­sid­er­ing al­ter­na­tive wa­ter sources.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

This Nov. 2, 2007, file photo shows the Palo Verde Nu­clear Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion in Win­ters­burg, Ariz. Man­agers of the three-re­ac­tor Ari­zona nu­clear plant that went on­line in the 1980s are ex­plor­ing whether pro­duc­tion of hy­dro­gen gas for use as an en­ergy source will be part of its fu­ture. The con­tem­plated prod­uct of hy­dro­gen stems from the fact that in­creased avail­abil­ity of so­lar power means Palo Verde’s elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion isn’t needed as much dur­ing mild weather dur­ing the spring and fall.

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