Analysis of nuclear microreactor efficacy with hydrogen production methods

Dimitri Kalinichenko, Lucas Wodrich, Alvin J.H. Lee, Tomasz Kozlowski, Caleb S. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A major issue with the economic validity of nuclear power technologies is their rate of return on investment. Since these systems have high expected initial capital costs, it is difficult to instill investment confidence against the backdrop of untested construction and operation. Nonetheless, emerging nuclear technologies such as microreactors remain promising as their output is carbon-free and the high outlet temperature associated with many microreactor concepts enables them to generate process heat that can power industrial processes, thereby widening their versatility beyond electricity generation. The pairing of these systems with higher value commodities, such as hydrogen, could potentially improve the economic viability of microreactors. Hydrogen production has become a subject of great interest in recent years for numerous applications such as for transportation, metal refining, and fertilizers. With a profitable microreactor-powered hydrogen production system, the price dependency of these applications and downstream commodities on the volatile natural gas prices can be reduced. In this work, the pairing of a microreactor with natural gas reforming (NGR) and high-temperature electrolysis (HTE) was modeled and it was found that a 10 MWth to 20 MWth microreactor could become economically viable through revenue from hydrogen production. The technology-agnostic microreactor energy source paired with the NGR and HTE plants was able to generate achievable principal loan values that were above $4.5 M/MWth for a 15 MWth reactor over a 20-year period. The cost of a first-of-a-kind microreactor according to available estimates exceeded the average achievable loan values for the HTE system while the NGR system was able to achieve these estimates within 21 years. The pairing of HTE with autothermal reforming was also investigated and it was found to be uncompetitive as compared with NGR and HTE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104994
JournalProgress in Nuclear Energy
StatePublished - Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Clean energy
  • Economics
  • Hydrogen production
  • Microreactor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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