The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in southeastern Idaho is building a new nuclear reactor near Arco, Idaho (population approximately 1,000), which will create both electricity and hydrogen for commercial use. The construction of the fourth generation, Very High Temperature Reactor, is part of the Department of Transportation (DOE) $8 million award for initial engineering studies.
The actual construction costs for the nuclear reactor project is estimated at $2.4 billion. The nuclear reaction will operate at temperatures up to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, which is three times the heat of the current third generation reactors. The INL reactor will be the first in the U. S. geared towards generating both electricity and hydrogen for commercial uses and is expected to be a showcase on the world stage for these capabilities.
Japan, Germany and South Africa are also currently working on a Generation-IV thermochemical cracking nuclear reactor as well. The process of thermochemical cracking involves heating water to very high temperatures (1,600+ degrees Fahrenheit) and adding a chemical agent, which can be recycled, in order to create hydrogen and oxygen.
The hydrogen created by the nuclear reactor may be used in the transportation industry to refuel hydrogen cars and other vehicles. Breaking from tradition, the fourth generation reactor will not be cooled by water, but rather by helium, which the DOE says is safer and more efficient.