Mini Nuclear Reactors

I want one of these for Christmas:

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.

It’s a pity there seems to be such a “no nuclear” mentality in this country – and it’s funny that people who talk up scientific consensus on global warming, disregard the scientific consensus on the safety of nuclear energy (and GM foods for that matter).  The above reactors not only have a small carbon footprint, but are small enough to satisfy the “decentralised community” ideal of so many greenies.

It seems the micro-reactor industry is ready to go critical in the next few years:

Other companies are known to be designing micro-reactors. Toshiba has been testing 200KW reactors measuring roughly six metres by two metres. Designed to fuel smaller numbers of homes for longer, they could power a single building for up to 40 years.

28 thoughts on “Mini Nuclear Reactors

  1. I have no problem with nuclear power or the idea of mini-nukes spread through the burbs. I do wonder how much the research that produced the technology cost US taxpayers, many of whom are anti-nuclear power. Such research is the realm of private enterprise.

  2. The cost of one unit of power is about US10 cents….

    They’re great hey?

    People are working on “nano” reactors for aircraft. These would send dark greenies ballistic. They say a plane would only need refueling ever coupla years. I hope I’m alive to see them.

  3. Architectonic – the news article is a fluff piece and light on details, so I appreciate your skepticism. However, you seem to have started posting questions before you even read the article.

    There is more info out there on the Toshiba reactor, which seems to be a step ahead.

  4. Yea fleeced the Toshiba is even more advanced and smaller providing more of a kick.

    You really do want one for the Xmas stocking.

  5. Yeah – I saw the article a while back about reactors on planes… even I was a bit iffy about that one, but if they make them small enough, then they can be pretty well contained (so – crashing them into a building would be safer than present).

    In fact, crashing isn’t the problem – the bigger concern would be hijacking – but if they don’t have weapons grade material, then I’m not sure how big a concern that is.

  6. Thing is fleeced that the smaller they get the less of a problem the stuff becomes.

    You know some idiot is going end up putting one those suckers in the front of a racing car and become a contender for the Darwin awards. Doing 550MHP+ along the salt lakes in the US.

  7. lol… I was just thinking back to the old sci-fi’s where everyone was zipping around the solar system on their own fusion rockets. Fusion rockets might be out, but dammit, I want a spaceship!

  8. it’s funny that people who talk up scientific consensus on global warming, disregard the scientific consensus on the safety of nuclear energy (and GM foods for that matter).

    They’re frightened very easily aren’t they?

    The above reactors not only have a small carbon footprint, but are small enough to satisfy the “decentralised community” ideal of so many greenies.

    i says don’t tell them. Do it all in secret and after they think the energy is coming from windmills/solar for a couple of years sit’em all down, get loads of kleenex out, have pyschological cousellors at close range and break the news to them very softly.

    They’ll be loads of tears, but they’ll eventually come around.

  9. good one jc – I like the idea!

    This outright refusal to consider nuclear while making the most apocalyptic predictions about carbon-intensive energy leads me to be highly sceptical about the motives of the so-called green movement.

  10. Oh, ye of little faith, Terje 🙂

    Though the small ones aren’t available yet, the Toshiba 4S is certainly real. There was a rumour about a smaller Toshiba version earlier in the year (sounding remarkably similar to the Hyperion system) which turned out not to exist, so some skepticism is certainly warranted… but I still want one for Christmas 🙂

  11. How much to they cost, what waste has to be dealt with and how do they work ( so ones knowledge of the half life of the probable waste was can be used to judge the claims). This would be much more interesting than the normal emotive rant that seem to accompany both sides of this debate.

  12. Hmmm…. this sounds so much like the 1960’s “vision of the future” features in publications like Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, even Scientific American, that I devoured so avidly as a teenager – that was when science was about to solve everything – great concepts but really difficult to bring to practical fruition (too expensive, unanticipated/unacceptable side-effects, gaps in current technology, etc).

    Re nuclear power, the big questions are still unanswered – the massive energy inputs, water usage, physical environment changes required to mine and refine the feed source (uranium), and the challenges of managing the aftermath (depleted uranium, waste products, by-products), and the lack of credible distance between “weapons grade” material and the rest.

    I am not aware of a single nuclear power plant anywhere in the world that exists without vast subsidies in both establishment and operations – there is still a very long way to go before laboratory dreams become real world actuality.

    Meeting energy needs will require a combination of sources and technologies, not an “eggs in one basket” approach.

    Still… if the very real challenges can be resolved…..

  13. Just paint them green, and people will eat them by the bushell!
    This seems more promising than the ideas of Dale Amon, over on samizdata, who keeps raising our hopes about clean and compact fusion energy!

  14. But as for those killjoys who won’t let you make weapons from them- you can still poison people with a dirty bomb, which spreads radioactive particles through the air. Where there’s an evil will, there’s a way!

  15. I’m opposed to nuclear till there’s a way of storing or decontaminated the waste relatively cheaply, reliably and safely, and we can get the energy itself without wasting millions of liters of water on it.

  16. Old news, I read about Toshiba’s reactor half a year ago. Now I can’t wait to be able to disconnect from our regulated and taxed public utilities.

  17. Rowan – there’s already a safe way to store it – what exactly do you think the risks are with storage?

    We cook our food with microwaves, and protect our home with smoke detectors, but people have an irrational fear of radiation.

  18. Rowan

    Bury i underground.

    we’re not wasting. We’re using water to create energy that allows you to turn your lights on. Sheesh.

  19. Yes, but how much energy are we using (mining, water storage & pumping, transport) to get the energy out of a nuclear power plant? And then there’s the waste and security issues….

    As to getting off the “…regulated and taxed public utilities…” where I live we have photovoltaics on our own roof producing 2x our usage (daylight only of course), with 12 big wind towers locally (and 6 more to come – up to 80% of needs for population centre of 30,000) and wave energy in development for the non-daylight hours and to provide baseload – so your aspiration can be a reality right now.

  20. Fleeced said.

    “We cook our food with microwaves, and protect our home with smoke detectors, but people have an irrational fear of radiation.”

    An unbelievable comment. About as sane as saying, we use radiation to see, why are people scared of radiation, or we use radiation to warm our room why are people scared of radiation.

  21. charles,

    The bricks in your house (Radon) and the smoke detector (Americium) in your home exposes you to dangerous radioactivity.

    Burying the waste in sealed containers underground in stable areas is as good as sending it off to the sun. It’s what the Swedes do.

  22. I bet all those Queenslanders wish they had independant power sources now! What do we want? Room-sized reactors! When do we want them? Yesterday!

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