Nuclear reactor systems present a promising sustainable energy source for the future. Simply, a nuclear reactor heats a coolant that powers a turbine to create electricity. The coolant then can either be re-cooled or can be used for process heat applications. By utilizing the heat off the reactor less energy is wasted. A few of the proposed uses of the wasted heat are water desalination, hydrogen production, or pyrolysis. Nuclear power plants most often provide baseload power and are very inflexible. One way to address this is to use nuclear hybrid energy systems.
The goal of this research is to create a system that mimics the waste heat from a reactor, demonstrates how to utilize that heat, and shows that when energy demand is low the reactor does not need to reduce power; the energy can be directed elsewhere to create goods. We have developed an Energy Conversion Loop to act as a testbed for experimentation of the aforementioned processes and test the possibility of nuclear hybrid energy systems.
The current design consists of a series of heat exchangers that transfer heat between hot air 427 °C (800 °F) and room temperature water. Each loop of the system mimics a type of process that can be tested with a waste heat application. Early models show the system is capable of producing air temperatures near 427 °C (800 °F) and steam temperatures of 154.4 °C (310 °F). These temperatures match needed process heat temperatures for pyrolysis, multi-effect distillation, and multi-stage flash distillation and can be used to simulate other processes for lab scale testing of wasted process heat. Physical testing will be completed in the future to confirm these results.