Imagine a nuclear reactor small enough to be carried by truck and buried in a garden... According to The Guardian, a U.S. company based in New Mexico, Hyperion Power Generation, has designed mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes. The company has already received firm orders and expects to deliver about 4,000 'individual' plants between 2013 and 2023. It also said that it has a six-year waiting list. So if you want such a micro nuclear reactor, don't expect to receive it by 2014. But read more...
You can see above a picture of the Hyperion Power Module (HPM) and how small it is. (Credit: Hyperion Power Generation)
The HPM will have multiple applications. (Credit: Hyperion Power Generation) Some of them include industrial ones, such as oil shale and sands drilling and processing or powering U.S. Military facilities. But "the one that would offer the most basic and direct positive impact on populations in need, is that of providing a power source to remote communities, both for electricity and to pump and process water." You'll find a larger version of the above illustration by clicking on the "Community" tab from the applications link mentioned earlier.
John Deal, the Hyperion CEO, says that such micro nuclear reactors should cost about $25 million each. In the U.S., where people spent more energy than in other parts of the world, such a reactor should be able to deliver power to only 10,000 households, for a cost of $2,500 per home. But in developing nations, one HPM could provide enough power for 60,000 homes or more, for a cost of less than $400. This is quite reasonable if you agree with Hyperion, which states that the energy from its HPMs will cost about 10 cents/watt.
On its home page, Hyperion gives additional details about these reactors and their safety. "Small enough to be transported on a ship, truck or train, Hyperion power modules are about the size of a "hot tub" — approximately 1.5 meters wide. Out of sight and safe from nefarious threats, Hyperion power modules are buried far underground and guarded by a security detail. Like a power battery, Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and are delivered factory sealed. They are never opened on site. Even if one were compromised, the material inside would not be appropriate for proliferation purposes. Further, due to the unique, yet proven science upon which this new technology is based, it is impossible for the module to go supercritical, 'melt down' or create any type of emergency situation. If opened, the very small amount of fuel that is enclosed would immediately cool. The waste produced after five years of operation is approximately the size of a softball and is a good candidate for fuel recycling."
In "Truck-delivered Micro-Nuclear Reactor for Clean Energy Within Five Years," Edwin Black agrees. "Unlike giant nuclear reactors requiring ten years to construct under daunting conditions, these concrete 'nuclear batteries' have no moving parts, no potential to go supercritical or meltdown, and reportedly cannot be easily tampered with. The extremely small amount of hot nuclear fuel—too hot to handle--would immediately cool if exposed to air, technical sources assert. Moreover, it would take prodigious resources wielded by a government infrastructure to attempt to enhance the weak radioactive core into a weapons-grade component. The fact is the radioactive fuel is so weak it will have to be replaced within seven to ten years. The nuclear waste after five years of spent fuel is so negligible it will reportedly produce a mass no bigger than a softball, and that will be easily recycled, according to atomic energy sources." (The Cutting Edge News, November 10, 2008)
In an August 2008 press release, Hyperion said that the TES Group, an investment company focusing on the energy sector in Central Eastern Europe, has purchased six units, and plans to buy more. According to the company, would be installed in Romania.
Apparently, Romanians didn't know abot this. In a short article, HotNews.ro said that "Romania's National Committee for Nuclear Control's officials declared that they did not receive any notification regarding the authorization of the mini nuclear plant and has no idea of the project, Romanian news agency NewsIn informs." (November 10, 2008)
So, what do you think of a micro nuclear reactor buried inside your neighbor's lawn? Would you feel safe? Drop me a note.
Sources: John Vidal and Nick Rosen, The Guardian, November 9, 2008; and various websites
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