Direct air capture using nuclear power plants

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A "Feasibility study for coupling of Nuclear Power Generation with Green House Gas capture" (pdf) by Dmitry Grishchenko and Pavel Kudinov examines the potential for using some of the waste heat from nuclear power stations to drive low temperature absorption and capture of CO
from the atmosphere.

Abstract – Humankind must urgently find solutions to two major and tightly coupled problems: (i) transition to CO2-free energy and (ii) control of climate by changing concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Both problems are targeted in the UN sustainable development goals and must be achieved by 2030. Four scenarios aiming to limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC were summarized by the 2015 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. All scenarios rely on two- to six-fold increase in nuclear energy production by 2050 and require mass deployment of negative emission technologies, i.e. CO2 capture and storage (CCS). Mass deployment of the CCS technologies require a source of a CO2-free electric power and heat. Nuclear energy can provide both.

The goal of this study is to demonstrate the feasibility of the climate control and CO2-free energy production using nuclear power coupled with CCS technology. In this work we provide (i) a review of different methods for CCS, (ii) possible approaches to optimization of energy extraction from existing and expressly designed NPP thermal cycles to achieve high efficiency of the coupled NPPCCS facilities and (iii) assess the needs and potential for NPP CCS deployment to achieve and maintain pre-industrial level of greenhouse gas concentration in atmosphere needed to effectively counteract climate crisis.

The paper discusses

  • technologies for Direct Air Capture, identifying techniques requiring low temperature heat,
  • the temperature characteristics of light water reactors and potential for extracting low temperature heat (which are already employed in some co-generation schemes such as district heating)
  • the possible outcomes of coupling DAC with Nuclear Power Plants in terms of quantities of clean energy produced and CO

Presumably waste heat from other thermal power plants, such as coal, oil, gas, biomass, solar thermal (e.g. concentrating solar), and geothermal energy, could be used in the same manner, as well as possibly solar thermal energy and low temperature geothermal. The economics of implementing such schemes would depend on, or be much enhanced by an effective carbon pricing scheme which rewards negative emissions.