Abstract The thermochemical Copper–Chlorine (Cu–Cl) cycle is an emerging new method of nuclear-based hydrogen production. In the process, water is decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen through several physical and chemical processes. In this paper, a Distributed Control System (DCS) is designed for the thermochemical Cu–Cl cycle. The architecture and the communication networks of the DCS are discussed. Reliability of the DCS is assessed using fault trees. In the assessment, the impact of the malfunction of the actuators, sensors, controllers and communication networks on the overall system reliability is investigated. This provides key information for the selection of control system components, and determination of their inspection frequency and maintenance strategy. The hydrogen reactor unit, which is one of the major components in the thermochemical Cu–Cl cycle, is used to demonstrate the detailed design and analysis.