Hyperion Raises $2.9M, Doubles Price of Nuclear Pod

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Hyperion Power Generation is just one of those companies that sparks the imagination; it has plans to make a hot-tub-sized nuclear device (nuclear-in-a-box as I’ve coined it before) that can be buried deep beneath the ground and used by off-grid communities. However, getting the device developed and into the hands of customers will take funding and this week, according to an SEC filing, the company has raised another $2.87 million from investors.

Two interesting people listed on the filing include Hyperion Chairman Lady Barbara Judge, the former chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, and Dirk McDermott, managing partner of investor Altira, which has also previously backed Hyperion. Hyperion’s CEO John “Grizz” Deal told me a couple of years ago that the company was in the process of raising a Series B round back then and wanted to raise a Series C round in the 2010/2011 time frame.

I’m not sure what round the $2.87 million is (waiting to hear back from the company with more details), but it’s clearly not enough to scale up manufacturing of modular nuclear devices that cost tens of millions of dollars each. The company seems like it’s still in R&D mode, and also, importantly, has to invest into finding how it can overcome the sizable regulatory issues. When I attended an investor event a couple of years ago, Deal gave a presentation to a room full of VCs peppering him with questions like “How do you transport the fuel across state lines?” to “How will you pass regulatory hurdles?” Not all VCs have the stomach for funding a technology that has high risks, an untested market and few startup competitors to prove out the space.

Along with raising this modest funding, the company also seems to have re-evaluated at least one of its metrics. Hyperion was previously talking about selling each nuclear device for $25 million, but now says on its website that the devices will cost $50 million. So essentially, Hyperion has doubled the price of its product.

Hyperion does say on its website it’s still looking to get its nuclear products into the hands of customers by 2013 (the same timeline Deal has maintained for the past couple of years). I think that also might be a stretch, given it’s now just two years away. Hyperion said back in August 2008 that its first customer is Romanian investment company TES Group, and also said more recently it’s aiming to build several factories around the world to produce a first batch of 4,000 units.

Investors and potential customers seem to be taking Hyperion Power Generation seriously; the company was reportedly valued at a whopping $100 million by investors, according to the Denver Post. And the market for small innovative nuclear has gotten some more startups, investors and attention since Hyperion emerged. NuScale Power and TerraPower have both made strides, and TerraPower, with backing from Bill Gates, says it’s in talks with Toshiba for a small nuclear development deal.

The U.S. federal government is also supporting nuclear — large and small — including allocating $54 billion in federal loan guarantees for nuclear power reactors. The idea behind small nuclear is that large nuclear plants can cost around $10 billion to build and take years, while small nuclear could be built faster and could be much cheaper.

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Robert Hargraves

Even doubling the price brings the capital cost to $2/watt — energy cheaper than from coal! (Though I’m not sure Hyperion includes the thermal/electric conversion in that price.)

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