Power plants exist to make electricity, but must also produce a lot of heat. What if they could use that heat for other processes that require thermal energy? Today, roughly 40% of all energy is wasted. More efficient energy use would be better for the environment and for the plant owner. A power plant being used for both electricity and heat is called an integrated energy system. Integrated energy systems could couple nuclear, renewable and fossil energy sources. Such systems offer efficiencies that can lead to energy independence, economic competitiveness, job creation and smarter use of resources.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy supports a national laboratory Integrated Energy Systems (IES) Program. The program conducts research, development, and deployment activities to expand the role of nuclear energy beyond supporting the electricity grid. Expanded roles include supplying energy to various industrial, transportation and energy storage applications. Development of integrated energy systems may include multiple energy inputs (e.g., nuclear, renewable, and fossil with carbon capture), multiple energy users (e.g., grid consumers, industrial heat or electricity users, transportation fuel users), and multiple energy storage options (e.g., thermal, electrical and chemical). Focusing IES development on enhanced utilization of low- or non-emitting energy generation options within IES will help the U.S. to achieve the bold goals that have been established by the Biden administration to achieve a 100% clean energy economy (link) and net-zero emissions by 2050 (link).
Far from Earth, whether in the void or on another world, power is life. A steady, strong flow of electricity is as crucial for operating computers and engines as it is for assuring access to corporeal necessities such as light and heat, breathable air and potable water, and preparation or even growth of food.
Eight national laboratories from across the energy space, encompassing nuclear, renewables and other low-carbon technologies, meet to progress COP26. he ambition was to create a long term legacy for COP26 in the form of international collaboration towards decarbonisation efforts.
Nuclear power plants can leverage the energy stored in some of the world’s heaviest elements to generate the lightest: hydrogen. That is not news, but it casts an aura of alchemy over straightforward engineering. Amid the hype, and the hope of significant federal funding, it’s worth acknowledging that hydrogen has an industrial history over 100 years old.
INL Executive Director Shannon Bragg-Sitton said modern nuclear reactors “are designed to operate at higher temperatures, run more efficiently, and provide greater flexibility.” INL is the nation’s main lab for nuclear energy research and development.
Electric power groups hailed the newly passed $1 trillion infrastructure legislation, pointing to billions of dollars in funding to upgrade the grid, electrify transportation and develop technologies for decarbonizing the electric power system.