Clean Energy Quest
|Edwin Black||November 10th 2008|
Micro-nuclear reactors about the size of a hot tub, prefabricated and delivered by trucks, will begin revolutionizing electric energy supply within five years, according to information gleaned from government scientists and corporate energy sources. If successful, the breakthrough will change the face of global energy supplies.
New nuclear battery technology pioneered by government scientists at Los Alamosâ€”the facility that developed the first atomic bombâ€”has been licensed to private companies for mass production and distribution. In its initial format, each micro-reactor will produce just 25 megawatts, but enough to provide electricity for 20,000 average American-sized homes or a major industrial project. Daisy-chained, these micro-reactors, each one about twice the size of an average man, can supply enough electricity to power an entire small city or suburb. Initially, the reactors will be placed in isolated industrial and residential areas, such as oilsand enterprises and underdeveloped African nations in need of power.
The miniature nuclear marvels will be factory-sealed in concrete, and delivered by truck, train or ship for burial under close international nuclear regulatory supervision. The reactors will produce heat which will boil an adjacent water source to create the steam that typically turns turbines that generate electricity.
Unlike giant nuclear reactors requiring ten years to construct under daunting conditions, these concrete â€œnuclear batteriesâ€ have no moving parts, no potential to go supercritical or meltdown, and reportedly cannot be easily tampered with. The extremely small amount of hot nuclear fuelâ€”too hot to handle--would immediately cool if exposed to air, technical sources assert.
Moreover, it would take prodigious resources wielded by a government infrastructure to attempt to enhance the weak radioactive core into a weapons-grade component. The fact is the radioactive fuel is so weak it will have to be replaced within seven to ten years. The nuclear waste after five years of spent fuel is so negligible it will reportedly produce a mass no bigger than a softball, and that will be easily recycled, according to atomic energy sources.
The first company to launch micro-reactor production is Hyperion Power Generation, a New Mexico company which will manufacture what it calls the Hyperion Power Module (HPM). Three Hyperion factories are being built to produce some 4,000 micro reactors, each one selling for approximately $25 million. According to company information, orders for the first 100 units have already been received, mainly from massive oil and other industrial enterprises with significant power needs in isolated areas. The first HPM will be shipped to a company called TES, a Czech firm specializing in water plants and power generation. TES has reportedly ordered six modules, the first one to be installed in Romania with an option for a dozen more micro-reactors. Developers in the Cayman Islands, Panama and the Bahamas are also considering purchases, sources say.
Toshiba, with vast experience in traditional nuclear installations, is also gearing up for micro-reactors. In March 2008, Toshiba invested $300 million in a new company called Nuclear Innovation North America LLC to proliferate Toshibaâ€™s ABWR (advanced boiling water reactor) nuclear power plants in North America. Toshiba is considering a slightly larger micro reactor yielding 200 kilowatts of power that would power a single building for up to four decades. The slightly larger reactor would measure approximately 18 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
Other nuclear licensees are also racing to join the technology, all of which will be under the strict supervision of Americaâ€™s Nuclear Regulatory Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Because the scale is so small, the nuclear material so weak, and the technology so entrenched after 50 years of nuclear management, these so-called â€œnuclear batteriesâ€ could, in essence, totally obsolete coal-based generation of electricity and substantially mitigate the acceleration of greenhouse gasses and global warming, commencing in the year 2013.
Edwin Black is the New York Times best selling investigative author of IBM and the Holocaust, Internal Combustion and his just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stopsâ€”or the Day Before (Dialog Press). More information about The Plan can be found at www.planforoilcrisis.com.