By Kawasaki Natsumi
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, in collaboration with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has begun developing technology to mass-produce hydrogen without emitting carbon dioxide (CO2). Hydrogen, which is expected to be a next-generation fuel, can be mass-produced efficiently using high-temperature steam generated by a new type of nuclear reactor which will soon be developed. The reactor will utilize the electrolysis of water to enable mass production of “green hydrogen, ” which does not emit CO2 during production. Europe leads in green hydrogen, which is produced using electricity derived from renewable energy. Japan, which lags in the use of renewable energy, hopes to catch up with new technology that uses nuclear reactors.
Mitsubishi is currently developing a high-temperature gas reactor at a Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) facility in Oarai Town, Ibaraki Prefecture. The company plans to launch the reactor in the first half of the 2030s. It is also making efforts to increase the size of the high-temperature gas reactor to mass-produce hydrogen. The high-temperature steam electrolysis technology is expected to be implemented in the 2040s, after the reactor is in stable operation. Although other countries have track records of using experimental high-temperature gas reactors for power generation, practical examples of hydrogen mass production and high-temperature steam electrolysis using high-temperature gas reactors are rare worldwide.
The JAEA facility in Oarai plans to set up a full-scale hydrogen production plant that utilizes steam reforming technology after March 2024. JAEA plans to invest about 30 billion yen in a demonstration experiment to be conducted until 2030. (Abridged)