Northwestern University will lead a regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) hub in the Midwest, funded by nearly $4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The Midwest Nuclear DAC Hub (MINDAC), which officially started on May 1, is one of only two DAC hubs located in the region. It is also one of two hubs with plans to use nuclear energy to power air handling units that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The regional DAC hubs are backed with $100 million in DOE investments.

Northwestern is collaborating with various partners, including RepAir, Constellation Energy, Siemens and LanzaTech. The feasibility evaluation of the hub is expected to last two years.

We asked which one of Constellation’s Illinois nuclear plants will be used to power the DAC process in the MINDAC hub. A spokesperson with Northwestern told us, “This is an exploratory stage of the hub where we evaluate the feasibility of different sites for providing power to the hub.” 

We previously reported that Constellation and several partners will receive $2.5 million in DOE funding to study DAC technology at the company’s Byron nuclear plant in Northern Illinois.

Direct air capture (DAC) technologies extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere at any location after which the carbon can be stored in geological foundations or used in a variety of applications such as a feedstock for sustainable aviation fuels.

Direct air capture, with its fans, pumps, compressors, water cooling systems and air separation units, is an energy-intensive process that leads to high costs.

However, a 2023 DOE study found that advanced nuclear reactors could reduce the cost of certain DAC methods by up to 13% compared to non-nuclear systems.

Researchers assessed three advanced reactor types in combination with low-temperature solid sorbent and high-temperature liquid solvent direct air capture systems, comparing them to fossil fuel-powered alternatives.

The reactors evaluated were an advanced pressurized water reactor, a sodium-cooled fast reactor and a very high temperature reactor.

Researchers found the continuous and carbon-free output from nuclear reactors would benefit direct air capture, reducing costs by up to 13% for solid systems and up to 7% for liquid systems.

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