Mini-nuclear plants available within five years
Relatively small (see left for scale), these modules could bring affordable and greenhouse gases-free electricity to up to 10,000 households for seven to ten years without being refueled.
Is this a good idea? Are safety issues tackled in a convincing way? Wouldn’t that increase nuclear proliferation? The answers to these questions are in today’s article.
The Guardian notes :
Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.
The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.
The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. ‘Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,’ said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion.
‘They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $2,500 per home.’
Deal claims to have more than 100 firm orders, largely from the oil and electricity industries, but says the company is also targeting developing countries and isolated communities. ‘It’s leapfrog technology,’ he said.
The company plans to set up three factories to produce 4,000 plants between 2013 and 2023. ‘We already have a pipeline for 100 reactors, and we are taking our time to tool up to mass-produce this reactor.’
The first confirmed order came from TES, a Czech infrastructure company specialising in water plants and power plants. ‘They ordered six units and optioned a further 12. We are very sure of their capability to purchase,’ said Deal.
The first one, he said, would be installed in Romania. ‘We now have a six-year waiting list. We are in talks with developers in the Cayman Islands, Panama and the Bahamas.’
The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years.
Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory. An application to build the plants will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year.
‘You could never have a Chernobyl-type event – there are no moving parts,’ said Deal. ‘You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it’s too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.’
For more information about the Hyperion modules, please go to the official company page.
The International Energy Agency published yesterday its World Energy Outlook which stressed that nuclear should become more important. Indeed, World Nuclear News quoted them stating that nuclear capacity must grow by 80 percent by 2030.
Is this the solution to our energy and climate problems ? It is worth noting that Toshiba is working too on mini nuclear plants. If you are looking for more about what nuclear reactors might look like in the near future, please check out this article.
In any case, be sure that I will keep you updated on that topic. So for this and for much more, stay tuned !