The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), a national research and development agency, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), have been contracted by Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), to conduct a Hydrogen Production Demonstration Project Utilizing Very High Temperature, and from this fiscal year initiated a program to produce hydrogen using a High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR).
Under this program, a newly built hydrogen production plant will be connected to an HTTR owned by JAEA, with the aim of proving the technology for hydrogen production utilizing the high temperature heat obtained from the HTTR.
The determination of specific renovations necessary to connect the hydrogen production plant, along with the licensing procedure, equipment modifications, and testing, will be conducted in stages.
To support future advancements in technologies for hydrogen production, JAEA and MHI will also examine the feasibility of enlarging certain components to allow for large-scale hydrogen production (such as the high temperature isolation valve), and explore carbon-free hydrogen production technologies in combination with high temperature gas-cooled reactors.
Through this program, JAEA and MHI intend to prove the technology for hydrogen production utilizing extremely high temperature heat from sources such as high temperature gas-cooled reactors, and realize the stable, large-scale, carbon-free hydrogen production.
Background. Japan’s Strategic Energy Plan (Cabinet approval in October 2021) sets as a policy the establishment of elemental technologies for hydrogen production using high temperature gas-cooled reactors. In addition, the Green Growth Strategy Through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050 (formulated in June 2021) sets as a policy the development by 2030 of technologies necessary to produce large-scale, low cost, carbon-free hydrogen by utilizing HTTRs, which have achieved world record-high temperatures.
In accordance with these national policies, on 8 February 2022, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), began accepting bids for its Hydrogen Production Demonstration Project Utilizing Very High Temperature. A consortium comprising JAEA, which is capable of conducting tests using an HTTR, and MHI, which is evaluating technology for hydrogen production using high temperature gas-cooled reactors, was selected as the consignee for this project.
JAEA began research and development of high temperature gas-cooled reactors for the multi-purpose use of nuclear / thermal energy in 1969. The latest product of these long-running efforts is the recently completed High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR). MHI headed the design and construction group of this project and has developed software technologies to verify the performance and integrity of the reactor core and other high temperature structures as well as hardware technologies such as manufacturing high-temperature structures and heat exchangers.
High Temperature gas-cooled reactors produce thermal energy of approximately 1000°C using ceramic (such as silicon carbide)-coated fuels and chemically inert helium gas coolant.
In addition to developing hydrogen production technology for the multi-purpose use of the high temperature gas-cooled reactor, MHI is also developing the helium gas turbine direct power generation system for high efficiency power generation.