BALTIMORE (April 19, 2022) — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a $2.5 million grant to Constellation and its project partners to explore the benefits of constructing direct air capture (DAC) technology at the company’s Byron nuclear energy plant in Northern Illinois. While nuclear plants do not produce any carbon emissions, direct air capture would remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, a possible next-generation technology to help our nation combat the climate crisis.
Constellation, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free energy, will partner with 1PointFive Inc., Worley Group Inc., Carbon Engineering Ltd., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to research the viability of DAC technology at the zero-emission Byron plant.
“This exciting DOE collaboration highlights Constellation’s continued use of innovation and leverages the clean energy expertise at our nuclear plants to further advance climate saving projects in the communities we serve,” said Joseph Dominguez, CEO of Constellation. “We need many new solutions to address the climate crisis and exploring this technology at one of our clean energy centers is a positive step driving us toward a carbon-free future.”
The DAC project at Byron Station could capture 250,000 tons of CO2 each year, reducing global carbon emissions and helping to decarbonize energy intensive sectors of the economy. The study will also focus on the potential for a nuclear plant to become the center of a direct air carbon capture hub, partnering the DAC technology with storage of CO2.
“Carbon dioxide removal is essential” to zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report issued earlier this month by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report stated the world must act now to reduce emissions before global temperatures rise to dangerous levels by the year 2050.
The carbon-removal DAC study at Byron Station will involve Carbon Engineering’s DAC technology, licensed to 1PointFive, within plant operations at the Byron nuclear plant and its twin 495-foot-tall hyperbolic cooling towers. In the proposed study, a chemical solution would be added to water flowing through the facility’s main condenser on the non-nuclear side of the plant. After traveling through the condenser, the water would travel out to the cooling towers, where CO2 in the air will attach itself to the chemical solution and become captured and sequestered for later use, potentially in industrial processes that will have net zero emissions ranging from creating sustainable aviation fuel to beverage industry (carbonation) production.
The study, which is expected to conclude in 2023, is designed to leverage the massive flow of clean water vapor from the cooling towers to eliminate carbon emissions created by emitting power plants, transportation and other industrial sources. The study will inform any future decisions around how and where a DAC facility might be integrated with a nuclear plant.
“Constellation’s nuclear experts deliver world-class reliability while incorporating innovative methods to help address climate change,” said Dave Rhoades, Chief Nuclear Officer at Constellation. “A project like this will give nuclear power, which already delivers the most carbon-free electricity of any source in the nation, an even bigger role in helping America accelerate the transition to a carbon-free future.