Innovation

Micro-nuclear reactors

Personal nuclear power plants aren't science fiction anymore.

Hyperion Power Generation, a New Mexico company, is planning to mass market within 5 years a small, modular, non-weapons grade nuclear power reactor named the Hyperion Hyperdrive — in other words, your own personal nuclear power plant!

Hyperion Power Generation Nuclear ModuleThe nearly 50-year old design was invented by Dr. Otis "Pete" Peterson at the United States' famed Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and has proved safe for students to use. Often referred to as a "nuclear battery," the Hyperion HyperDrive is self-regulating with no mechanical parts to break down or otherwise fail. Sealed at the factory, the module is not opened until it has been returned to the factory to be refueled, approximately every five years or so, depending on use. This containment, along with the strategy of completely burying the module at the operating site, protects against the possibility of human incompetence, or hostile tampering and proliferation.

The reactor provides 70 megawatts of steam energy and 25 megawatts, which would power up to 20,000 average American homes. With an initial price tag of $25 million (US), it would be easily affordable for areas that need a dependable and guaranteed source of power that is less environmentally impacting than a full-scale nuclear or fossil-fuel powered plant. TES, a Czech infrastructure company specializing in power generation, has ordered the first 6 units and optioned another 12.

Toshiba is currently testing a 200KW reactor that measures 6 by 2 meters and are designed to last up to 40 years, which also uses the nuclear battery concept, as well as a 10 MW model that is being considered as the design for the Galena, Alaska nuclear power plant.

With world-wide power demands estimated to increase 60% by 2030, these miniature reactors are sure to become more common.

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