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article imagePortable nuclear reactor powers 25,000 homes

By Chris V. Thangham     Nov 25, 2007 in Environment
A scientist has invented a portable nuclear reactor that will generate enough electricity to power 25,000 homes for at least five years. The company has filed a pending patent for the uranium hydride reactor.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientist Otis Peterson filed the patent for the nuclear fission reactor in 2003. The portable nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub. It is filled with uranium hydride core and is surrounded by a hydrogen.
The reactor is encased in concrete and buried underground. By connecting a steam turbine to this reactor, the unit can generate enough electricity to power a 25,000-home community for at least five years.
The company Hyperion Power Generation was founded last month to develop the nuclear fission reactor at LANL and later released it to the private market segment. They are planning to have a factory in New Mexico by 2012 and begin producing 4,000 portable reactors.
Each unit produces 27 megawatts worth of thermal energy. It doesn’t require a human operator; it is self-contained and doesn’t have any moving parts. Hyperion compares this reactor to a battery.
Hyperion spokeswoman Deborah Blackwell said to the media:
In fact, we prefer to call it a ‘drive’ or a ‘battery’ or a ‘module’ in that it’s so safe…Like you don’t open a double-A battery, you just plug [the reactor] in and it does its chemical thing inside of it. You don’t ever open it or mess with it.”
The reactor uses uranium crystals and hydrogen isotopes to create an internal, self-regulating balance. Since the technology is new, the anti-nuclear activists aren’t sure whether this innovation iis good or bad.
Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello thinks this idea is loony. He said to the press:
Of course, factoring in enough cronyism, corruption and official ignorance and boosterism, it’s possible the principals could make some money during the initial stages, before the crows come home to roost.”
The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer beg to differ. The group of 700 labs, set up by Congress to promote “technology transfer” activities between the public and private sectors, honored Peterson’s invention as an “Outstanding Technology Development” in October 2003 at its conference in Hawaii.
Blackwell, director of Purple Mountain Ventures, a firm that specializes in commercial development of LANL technology, has high praises for Hyperion’s reactor and said it has a potential to solve the energy crisis. He said such a nuclear battery could be brought in easily and can provide enough power to run a small city of industrial use such as the LANL.
Blackwell also thinks the Hyperion reactor could be used in military bases to provide power and in developing countries which lacks electricity and clean drinking water. They plan to approach United Nations and international humanitarian groups.
But not all are approving this reactor, the Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director Jay Coghlan said the nuclear industry never gives a complete picture. He said taxpayer subsidies, the environmental and financial costs of mining, enriching uranium and waste disposal are never factored into the overall report.
There is always skepticism whenever a new technology comes in, if Hyperion proves that it is safe to operate and the costs are favorable compared to other power means, then it can provide electricty to many poor countries (who lack infrastructure) and places isolated from the main land.
More about Portable, Nuclear reactor, Fission
 
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