[ RadSafe ] Miniature Nuclear Plants Set to Seek Approval for Work in U.S

Dimiter Popoff didi at tgi-sci.com
Mon May 17 07:20:16 CDT 2010


This try - on trucks - might be more successful, hopefully? :-)
And with that "Gates connection"... may be it will finally be
allowed to spread.
I like the idea of small (thus diversified) energy sources, there
is little if anything not to like abouth that really - but will
the politics allow it this time to happen? ...


Dimiter Popoff               Transgalactic Instruments

http://www.tgi-sci.com  http://tgi-sci.com/tgi/nmcatb.htm <--- new


Miniature Nuclear Plants Set to Seek Approval for Work in U.S        

By Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales
 May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Manufacturers of refrigerator-sized nuclear reactors
will seek approval from U.S. authorities within a year to help supply 
the world’s growing electricity demand.  John Deal, chief executive officer
of Hyperion Power Generation Inc., intends to apply for a license “within
a year” for plants that would power a small factory or town too remote
for traditional utility grid connections.  The Santa Fe, New Mexico-based
company and Japan’s Toshiba Corp. are vying for a head start over reactor
makers General Electric Co. and Areva SA in downsizing nuclear technology
and aim to submit license applications in the next year to U.S. regulators.
They’re seeking to tap a market that has generated about $135 billion 
in pending orders for large nuclear plants.  “We’re building iPhones when
the nuclear industry has traditionally built mainframe computers,” said
Deal. Hyperion has more than 150 purchase commitments from customers such
as mining and telecom companies, provided its technology gets licensed
for operation, he said.  A generation after the Chernobyl and Three Mile
Island accidents wiped reactor construction off the agenda of many governments,
developers are pressing ahead with designs to satisfy demand for power
that doesn’t pollute the skies.  While utility-scale reactors cost about
$2.3 billion apiece and produce 1.2 gigawatts of power, Hyperion’s price
tag is $50 million for a 25-megawatt reactor more comparable to a diesel
generators or wind farms.   

Sealed Boxes
 Transportable by truck, the units would come in a sealed box and work
around the clock, requiring less maintenance than a fossil fuel plant,
the developers say. They’d cost 15 percent less per megawatt of capacity
than the average full-scale atomic reactors now in on the drawing 
board, according to World Nuclear Association data.  “A 25-megawatt 
plant would put electricity into 20,000 homes, and it would fit inside
this room,” James Kohlhaas, vice president at a Lockheed Martin Corp.
unit that builds power systems for remote military bases, said in 
an interview. “It’s a pretty elegant micro-grid solution.”  Certifying
and building small reactors will require the same multi-year licensing
procedure necessary for bigger plants. And since no small-scale systems
are operating, there’s no track record to know how well they will 

‘Pandora’s Box’
 “Whether it’s a small or large reactor, the hoops you have to jump through
are the same,” said Hans-Holger Rogner, head of economic planning at 
the International Atomic Energy Agency. “You open up a Pandora’s Box 
of intervention from society every time you try to build any kind of 
nuclear plant.”  Environmentalists are concerned the small reactors would
pose the same risk of leaking radioactive materials as their larger counterparts,
said Jan Beranek, nuclear energy project leader at Greenpeace International
in Amsterdam.  “Terrorists could hijack a reactor and directly use it to
cause a meltdown or use it to fabricate fissile materials for later use
in a weapon,” Beranek said.  Deal rejects those concerns, noting his units
are designed to fit in the same canisters used to transport nuclear fuel
for bigger plants around the world. The power-producing core of Hyperion’s
reactor comes in multiple sealed chambers, which would contain any leak.
The entire unit would be installed in an underground vault to protect
it from tampering and natural threats, the company says.  “You still have
to have guards and dogs, but you have to do that with a grocery store
in some countries,” Deal said.  

Approval Needed
 So far, no manufacturer has sought certification for any small reactor,
according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Formal approvals
would probably take three to five years, the same as for bigger reactors,
said Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the commission.  Small reactors have
been used in U.S. submarines since the USS Nautilus was commissioned 
in 1954. Russia’s Rosatom Corp. is using its experience on submarines
and icebreakers to develop atomic plants for floating barges.  Hyperion’s
technology was invented at the U.S. government’s Los Alamos National 
Laboratory in New Mexico. Six other reactor designs are in information-sharing
stages, including ones from NuScale Power Inc., Toshiba and its Westinghouse
unit.  Westinghouse has been developing small reactors since 1999, imagining
customers in “lesser developed” countries and from small industry and
utilities, Michael Anness, manager of the company’s Advanced Reactors,
Research and Technology division, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

‘Safe Small and Simple’
 Toshiba, based in Tokyo, is working on reactors that would produce 10
megawatts and 50 megawatts, called 4S for “super- safe, small and simple.”
It will apply later this year for U.S. approval to test the unit in the
village of Galena in central Alaska, said company spokesman Keisuke Ohmori.
 Galena has no connection to power lines and is closed to barge traffic
for supplies for more than half the year when the Yukon River freezes.
To provide heat and electricity, the town relies on diesel fuel, whose
price has risen by about 48 percent in the past 12 months.  “We aim to 
get 4S orders in remote areas where it is more cost-efficient to generate
power on a local basis than use power grids,” Ohmori said. “A great many
people are interested.”  Both Toshiba and Hyperion are designing reactors
that would run about five times longer without servicing than the 18 
to 24 months typical at utility plants.   

Gates Connection
 Toshiba signed an agreement in November with TerraPower, controlled by
Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, to exchange design and engineering
know-how. In February Gates said a small- scale pilot project needed 
“several billion” dollars.  Deal, a licensed Christian minister and self-confessed
“left-wing nutbag” who only began to support nuclear power four years
ago, says the simplicity and scale of his reactor can overcome concerns
about waste and terrorism.  “Attitudes change,” said Deal, 46, who’s working
at his sixth start-up company in 20 years after previous roles at spy
satellite technology and wind power businesses. “There’s not a lot of
people out there railing against nuclear power.”   

 To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2 at bloomberg.net;
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy van Loon in Berlin at jvanloon at bloomberg.net
Last Updated: May 17, 2010 06:41 EDT  

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