Author Topic: Mini Nuclear Plants?  (Read 3396 times)

uptowngirl

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Mini Nuclear Plants?
« on: November 09, 2008, 06:48:00 AM »
Interesting article....Not sure if there is actually a cost savings here though...anyone know?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/09/miniature-nuclear-reactors-los-alamos

Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes
£13m shed-size reactors will be delivered by lorry

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. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. 'They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.'

Deal claims to have more than 100 firm orders, largely from the oil and electricity industries, but says the company is also targeting developing countries and isolated communities. 'It's leapfrog technology,' he said.

The company plans to set up three factories to produce 4,000 plants between 2013 and 2023. 'We already have a pipeline for 100 reactors, and we are taking our time to tool up to mass-produce this reactor.'

The first confirmed order came from TES, a Czech infrastructure company specialising in water plants and power plants. 'They ordered six units and optioned a further 12. We are very sure of their capability to purchase,' said Deal. The first one, he said, would be installed in Romania. 'We now have a six-year waiting list. We are in talks with developers in the Cayman Islands, Panama and the Bahamas.'

The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years. Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory. An application to build the plants will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year.

'You could never have a Chernobyl-type event - there are no moving parts,' said Deal. 'You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.'

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.

jbm32206

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2008, 07:10:32 AM »
I think it's a very interesting concept, and could indeed, help with the countries energy issues. Nuclear power is one of the most efficient sources. What needs to be known, is what would they do with the unit, once it's reached that (up to) 40 year life span...where would the old ones be stored? Once that is resolved, then I'm all for having them become more or less a 'house hold' item.

If nothing else, this is at least a step in the right direction.

uptowngirl

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2008, 06:37:57 AM »
I am curious about maintenance. I believe some of that is dependent on the cooling method, like saltwater needs more maintenance then fresh water, and the mini reactors on subs are refurbished every five years I believe (?) so what would be the cost of multiple small scale reactors compared to large ones?

I admit I do not know too much about this topic, but find it interesting...

Jason

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2008, 09:10:44 AM »
Definitely interesting.  The maintenance of these units and security are my concerns.  Buried below ground in a concrete bunker could likely prevent any significant damage from a meltdown, but the "out of site out of mind" nature of burying something underground is cause for concern.  Full scale plants are securely guarded, extremely maintained, and heavily regulated.  Would these mini units share the same scrutiny?

Other than that, sounds like a great idea that apparently has large scale support, therefore, must be well tested and pretty damn safe.

Joe

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2008, 04:15:26 PM »
Sorry for the delayed reaction (no pun intended) but I just wanted to comment that this could be a fantastic development. Their projected costs seem amazingly low. The implications for island nations in particular are amazing - for both power, and desalinization plants.

Quote
Full scale plants are securely guarded, extremely maintained, and heavily regulated.  Would these mini units share the same scrutiny?

I also wanted to comment that this is not always the case. As the article implies, Universities already have dozens of small scale reactors like these. UF has one in a building next door to the swamp! (Think about that. A nuclear reactor next to 80,000 people in a stadium for most of our lives, and few people know or complain)

These facilities are not really guarded, and you can apparently get in if you befriend one of the grad students. I think there have been tours too.

Lunican

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2008, 04:33:32 PM »
Research reactors are different than power reactors.

uptowngirl

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2008, 07:27:50 AM »
Please explain for those us of just getting our feet wet on this topic?

Midway ®

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2008, 11:40:51 AM »
Research reactors typically produce about 10 to 50 watts of energy, and the radioactive content is measured in milligrams. These are referred to as "non-power reactors".

They produce enough energy to almost power the night light in your house.

Nuclear power plants generate power by the megawatt and contain hundreds and even thousands of pounds of highly radioactive fuel, usually enriched U235.

Nuclear power reactors produce plutonium as a waste product as a result of the nuclear fission employed within.

Research reactors produce radioactive isotopes, usually used for medical purposes like cancer treatment, and not plutonium.

Research reactors are probably less dangerous that the emissions from a paper plant.

uptowngirl

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2008, 07:28:51 AM »
Thanks! I had never heard of research reactors before...learning a lot here.

Jason

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2008, 09:08:27 AM »
Here is another article on the subject...


Quote
Mini Nuclear Power Plants Could Power 20,000 Homes (Update)




(PhysOrg.com) -- Underground nuclear power plants no bigger than a hot tub may soon provide electricity for communities around the world. Measuring about 1.5 meters across, the mini reactors can each power about 20,000 homes. (Please see below for an update)



The small energy modules were originally designed by Otis "Pete" Peterson and other scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Now, the technology is being commercially developed by Hyperion Power Generation, which recently announced that it has taken its first orders and plans to start mass production within five years.

 "Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world," said John Deal, CEO of Hyperion. "[The nuclear plants] will cost approximately $25 million each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $2,500 per home."

Because of their small size, the mini power plants can be assembled relatively quickly and transported by truck, rail or ship to remote locations, even places that currently do not have electricity. The power plants provide an alternative to current nuclear plants, which are large, expensive, and take about 10 years to build. Also, large-scale power plants don´t fit the needs of small populations or areas without available land. Hyperion´s modules can be connected together to provide energy for larger populations, as well.

In addition, the Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and never need to be opened on site. Even if opened, the small amount of enclosed fuel would immediately cool, alleviating safety concerns. "It is impossible for the module to go supercritical, ´melt down,´ or create any type of emergency situation," the company states on its Web site. Because the Hyperion plants would be buried underground and guarded by a security detail, the company explains that they´ll be out of sight and safe from illegitimate uses. Further, the material inside wouldn´t be appropriate for proliferation purposes.

"You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium," Deal said. "Temperature-wise it´s too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands."

The reactors need to be refueled about every seven to ten years. After five years of generating power, Hyperion says that the module produces a total waste of about the size of a softball, which could be a candidate for fuel recycling.

Hyperion now has more than 100 orders for its modules, mostly from the oil and electricity industries. The first order came from a Czech infrastructure company called TES, which specializes in water plants and power plants. TES ordered six modules and optioned another 12, with the first planned to be located in Romania.

Hyperion plans to build three manufacturing plants, with the goal of producing 4,000 mini nuclear modules between 2013 and 2023. Next year, the company will submit an application to build the modules to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

While acknowledging that the commercial development of mini nuclear plants is a lofty goal, Hyperion believes that the potential benefits of the technology make the effort well worthwhile. Along with bringing electricity to remote locations, the Hyperion modules could also be used to provide clean water for the 25% of the world´s population that currently does not have access to clean water. The modules can provide power to pump, clean, and process water, which in turn can help decrease disease, poverty, and social unrest.

Update (November 12, 2008): The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) contacted PhysOrg.com to state that the NRC has no plans to review the Hyperion design in the near future, although the NRC and Hyperion have had preliminary talks. Because the Hyperion design is unique, the NRC expects that it will take significant time to ensure safety requirements. In a response to a letter from October 2008, the NRC stated:

“Hyperion Power Generation is in the early stages of development of this design, and very little testing information is available for this design concept. Hyperion Power Generation has indicated that it will submit technical reports to support a pre-application review in late FY 2009. The NRC cannot engage in any meaningful, formal technical interaction with the potential applicant until we receive those reports. Because of the very limited amount of test data and lack of operating experience available for a uranium hydride reactor, the NRC staff anticipates that a licensing review would involve significant technical, safety, and licensing policy issues.”


More information: www.hyperionpowergeneration.com


Source: http://www.physorg.com/news145561984.html



Lunican

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2008, 11:04:52 AM »
Quote
"Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world," said John Deal, CEO of Hyperion.

Hopefully he meant kilowatt.

Jason

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2008, 11:07:25 AM »
Good catch Lunican!

Midway ®

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2008, 01:56:25 PM »
Keep in mind that electric utilities currently produce electricity for about 2-3 cents per Kwh, so this option is not currently cost competitive.

You also need to know that this mini reactor is just a very hot box buried in the ground. All of that heat needs to be utilized to generate electricity; by boiling water, which in turn will generate steam to drive turbines which will rotate alternators that will generate the electricity. So, this will need a steam power plant above ground with all of the associated switchgear and transmission equipment. (It will look like a powerplant without a stack).

Its not as elegantly simple as the picture portrays it to be. this is a great solution for electricity in the middle of the desert, or on a remote island somewhere, geology permitting. Remember, it also needs stable geology with little or no groundwater ingression, and plenty of routine maintenance topside.

It is only a first technological step in a very long development process. This invention is basically a self moderating reactor made with the use of uniquely modified U235 fuel.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2008, 02:00:50 PM by Midway »

Lunican

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2008, 02:04:27 PM »
So, this will need a steam power plant above ground with all of the associated switchgear and transmission equipment. (It will look like a powerplant without a stack).

Would it look something like this?




« Last Edit: December 15, 2008, 02:06:04 PM by Lunican »

Midway ®

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Re: Mini Nuclear Plants?
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2008, 02:16:12 PM »
That looks about right.

Except you will need to add a turbine building.

And probably some cooling towers.

And a condensate return system.

And a water treatment plant.

And a big fence.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2008, 02:18:10 PM by Midway »