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Hyperion's Nuclear-In-A-Box Ready By 2013

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Hyperion Power Generation, a startup building compact nuclear power reactor units that are “about the size of a typical backyard hot tub”, says commercial deployments could start as early as 2013. The release quotes the company’s CEO John “Grizz” Deal, who says the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based startup has advanced development of its device enough to be able to reach that goal (of course the nuclear exec has such a great nickname).

The company says it initially plans to make 4,000 units — each being able to generate 70 megawatts of heat energy, or 27 megawatts of electricity from a steam turbine. That’s the equivalent power for 20,000 homes. There’s also the possibility of linking devices that could produce more power.

Hyperion’s “cartridge” reactor or “nuclear battery” is small, portable and self-contained, which could make it a good fit for remote, rural locations that are disconnected from the power grid. The company says the device can be delivered where it is needed and then sent back to the factory for refueling every five years.

The modular aspect of the device is supposed to bring down the cost of nuclear power — “30 percent” over traditional nuclear in capital costs and a 50 percent reduction in operating costs. The company says the device is also safer than traditional nuclear because: 1). it is sealed and only opened when refueled back at the factory, and 2). because it is buried at the generation site, which cuts down on tampering. We’re not sure about the company’s claims, but the image above looks slightly terrifying.

Most of the presidential candidates are touting nuclear as a promising option, and government funding has started to head that way. This is despite the significant problems with nuclear power, like issues of waste disposal, uranium supply, and safety, or the fact that it will take decades and billions of dollars to get traditional reactors built.

Private investors are also starting to eye nuclear as the country searches for answers to provide large amounts of carbon-free power. Hyperion is backed by Altira Group in an undisclosed round of funding. Toshiba reportedly has a compact modular nuclear technology in the works as well. And NRG Energy is creating Nuclear Innovation North America, a subsidiary that will develop and invest in nuclear projects, and it launched the new company with a $300 million investment from Toshiba.

28 Responses to “Hyperion's Nuclear-In-A-Box Ready By 2013”

  1. Its not the safety of the unit thats in question. Medical irradation devices are very safe – until a facility goes bust or something and someone gets hold of one, chops it up for scrap and releases the isotopes.

    What are the chances of one of these not becoming a terrorist target or getting dismantled by the wrong people?

    Nice idea, but if you think it’ll end up in an unstable third world country or outside of a specialist facility elsewhere you’re dreaming.

  2. Uranium production? We only use uranium in nuclear reactors to GET uranium for atomic bombs. That’s the misconception. You can pursue nuclear energy without getting uranium if you use a thorium fuel, which is more common and more efficient.

    People are so hard on nuclear energy without ever doing any research on the subject. They just hear nuclear and shudder. If you have no qualms about driving around in your gasoline powered metal deathtrap (your car), then you have no right to be concerned about the safety of nuclear energy.

  3. Carl Wodard

    The small nuclear reactor looks great.
    Electricity and power from nuclear reactors has always been the safest way to generate power for Submarines, shipe and electricty for public use. Those who doubt this should perform searches on their computers to obtain factual study reports made by independant qualified analyst. They should search for reports covering: The dangers of nuclear power, The relative risks of nuclear power, The dangers of fossil fuels to health, Reductions in life expantancy from various sources,etal. Coal is radioactive.

  4. What is really scary about this is how little most people seem to know about nuclear power. If designed properly (like NEW ones are, but the hippies didn’t want any new ones being built) nuclear reactors are about as fool proof as anything can possibly be.

  5. Actually, it’s not a backyard nuke – it’s looks to be a large electrical substation nuke, able to power a large number of homes. Two of these would supply most of the town I live in, with a very small footprint. An having the more dangerous components underground seems to be a very good choice, limiting chances of tampering.

  6. I can see the advantages. 27 MW of solar power for example destroys about 10 hectares of land, so clearly this is far more environmentally friendly.

    It doesn’t solve the real problem of nuclear power though, which is that many people are irrationally scared of it.

  7. One of the reasons for backyard nukes is that the acreage of solar panels needed to supply the energy to produce and deliver our goods and services won’t fit in anyone’s back yard. It’s huge, in case you haven’t done the calculation. I think there will be regulatory problems, but we also have unanimous agreement from the political right, left and green that we all need to continually increase our rate of increasing everything people want (money), so ramping up the expansion of our energy sources is something everyone is going to have to figure out how to do. There just are not a lot of good options, so we’re stuck with multiplying the less good ones…

  8. Tyler, I think the technology is promising and the markets it addresses are very important. I was more thinking the marketing needs some help. With the public perceptions of the safety issues with nuclear, the company should be really careful about how it communicates itself.

  9. Exactly what makes the image slightly terrifying? It looks like some people are getting much needed energy where it would not normally be available… I think it looks slightly great.

  10. Has the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, or the Environmental Protection Agency weighed in on this yet? I would hope they would have something to say about this boner.

  11. michael

    The invention per se might be compelling, but the application of it shown here has to be the most un-thought-through of all time. Has nobody read “When Things Bite Back”? The national security implications alone are staggering.

  12. @Deep Patel: because our current (in the lab now) solar technology can’t produce the amount of electricity needed now and in the near future. I hope solar efficiency continues to increase, and all the other renewable energy sources continue to grow in their use, but nuclear is necessary for now. Hyperion’s technology makes nuclear much much safer by reducing human error.

    And, done right, nuclear material can be recycled.

  13. i think Hyperion should do business with Iran … now we can buy nuclear bombs with a legit purpose … I cant say how Al-Qaeda will handle this reactor… they also need energy down there in dark hills.. and BTW buried inside a mountain is safer than bureid inside land… also if someone forgot to take the reactor out … man the nuclear crap will be buried all over the planet… radiations coming from everywhere … I dont want to live to see that day …

    • You can’t make weapons out of nuclear reactors. To begin with, the fuel inside isn’t nearly potent enough. Secondly, the type of reaction that goes on in a reactor and the type of reaction that goes on in a bomb. To make a weapon out of one of these, you would have to open it up, take out the fuel rods, separate the good fuel from the stuff that has already been used up, then somehow enrich the fuel to the point where it would be useful as a weapon. At this point the rest of the reactor is useless to you, and you would just be building the very expensive and highly technologically advanced bomb from scratch and putting the fuel you did an unnecessary amount of work to obtain into it.

      A person would be better off just purchasing some nuclear fuel (It’s fairly inexpensive) and putting that into the bomb that they would have to make from scratch anyway.

      As for leaving the reactors in the ground, first of all, that wouldn’t happen, as reactors are very expensive, and the company would lose billions of dollars by leaving them sit there. Secondly, the radiation would not be able to get through the water cooling the reactor and the canister surrounding it. If by some freak chance the reactor did break, the ground would work as a natural radiation shield, and the radiation would likely never get more than 3-6 feet through the dirt.

      And no, if a worm digs through that dirt, it won’t grow 800 feet tall and rampage through Tokyo. That’s just not how the world works. :)

      • Whoops. Typo. The third sentence above was supposed to be, “Secondly the type of reaction that goes on in a reactor and the type of reaction that goes on in a bomb are very different.”

  14. Yeah, lets just bury a nuclear reactor in the ground and let common people handle a very dangerous device. Why go through all the trouble when solar panels combined with fuel cells can provide a much cleaner and safe source of power?