UK group taps depleted uranium for H2 storage

A UK consortium has secured nearly £8m to develop a technology demonstrator that uses depleted uranium as a conduit for long-term hydrogen storage.

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HyDUS (Hydrogen in Depleted Uranium Storage) will see the pilot project led by EDF UK, alongside Bristol University, UKAEA and Urenco. The group will develop a system where hydrogen is stored in a reversible metal hydride form, absorbed into a depleted uranium ‘bed’ that can release the hydrogen again when heated. Backed by £7.7m in funding from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), the project is part of the Longer Duration Energy Storage demonstrator programme at the UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxford.  

“This will be a world first technology demonstrator which is a beautiful and exciting translation of a well proven fusion-fuel hydrogen isotope storage technology that the UK Atomic Energy Authority has used for several decades at a small scale,” explained Professor Tom Scott from Bristol University’s School of Physics, one of the architects of the HyDUS technology.

“The hydride compounds that we’re using can chemically store hydrogen at ambient pressure and temperature but remarkably they do this at twice the density of liquid hydrogen. The material can also quickly give-up the stored hydrogen simply by heating it, which makes it a wonderfully reversible hydrogen storage technology.”

Energy storage is key to providing grid resilience and flexibility as more renewables and low carbon energy are integrated into the UK’s power network. When excess power is available on the grid – generally overnight – that energy could be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. However, hydrogen is difficult to store, particularly for long periods of time. Better solutions for long-term hydrogen storage are therefore seen as vital for enabling a future hydrogen economy that many see as vital for the clean energy transition.

“The novel form of long duration energy storage technology that will be demonstrated in HyDUS has excellent synergies with the nuclear supply chain and EDF’s power stations, especially within a future low-carbon electricity system, where flexibility using hydrogen will play a significant role,” said Patrick Dupeyrat, EDF R&D director.

“I’m really excited to witness the demonstration phase of this exciting technology and the collaboration across our key partners.”