As companies set goals to reduce emissions to meet decarbonization objectives, a variety of solutions is needed to meet planned objectives. One approach can be from the utilization of emerging clean hydrogen technologies. Clean hydrogen is not yet being used widespread, however, it can be an important tool in the future for industries that are difficult to decarbonize, such as steel and cement manufacturing and heavy-duty transportation: freight trucking, shipping and aviation.

Fortunately, advancements in clean energy are receiving monetary support. Funding within the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act includes $8 billion for the development of several regional clean hydrogen hubs to expand the use of the clean energy. At least one hub is to produce clean hydrogen from fossil fuels, one from renewable sources and one from nuclear technology.

Producing “Pink” Hydrogen

The system of categorizing energy sources, production processes and relative emissions is often referred to in the industry as the “hydrogen rainbow,” where a spectrum of colors is used to describe the way a gas is extracted — some cleaner than others. “Pink” hydrogen typically refers to the process of using (new or existing) nuclear power stations in carbon-free hydrogen production.

In the context of nuclear power generation, pink hydrogen production via low-temperature water electrolysis — the most practical method — uses electricity generated by an energy source, such as a nuclear plant, to split a water molecule into its hydrogen and oxygen atoms. High-temperature water electrolysis — also known as solid-oxide electrolysis — is a similar process, although it can only be associated with Generation IV nuclear reactors that operate at higher temperatures (Gen IV nuclear reactor designs eliminate any nuclear plant safety concerns and are currently being researched for commercial use by 2030). In both methods, the isolated hydrogen (in either liquid or solid form) can then be used in various renewable energy applications.

Hydrogen production by way of electrolysis using nuclear power deserves attention because it can result in virtually zero greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, using the current U.S. grid system consisting of fossil fuel generating stations as the source of electricity for electrolysis will result in the release of greenhouse gases.

While commercialization of producing hydrogen through solid-oxide electrolysis by using generation IV nuclear power stations is still years away, as the interest in clean energy grows it could be a key strategy to help companies meet low carbon production goals.


Hydrogen production could help countries meet decarbonization goals. Explore its market opportunities, technical considerations and prospective end uses.

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Robert (Bob) Arteaga is an associate instrumentation and controls engineer at Burns & McDonnell. He has more than 30 years of combined experience in nuclear controls, commercial communications and the electric power industry. Bob has worked at several nuclear facilities in the U.S. and is a lead engineer for a new nuclear facility being designed as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.