At a time when energy costs have become a real focus again -- and major nuclear failures appear to be fading in consumers' memories -- one business is trying to convince people to take themselves off the energy grid without using a wind turbine or solar panels.
Hyperion nuclear power plants, small plants for home use, could be coming soon:
Scientists at Los Alamos in New Mexico say the plants will be on sale within five years. Hyperion Power Generation, based in New Mexico, said it's already taking orders and will start mass production of its Hyperion Power Module within the same time frame.
The goal "is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world," according to a Hyperion executive. That same executive also said "you could never have a Chernobyl-type event" with one of the reactors.
Hyperion's in-home nuclear plants are safe from a "Chernobyl-type event," said the company's CEO, because they're built differently:
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.'
Hyperion Nuclear is marketing the plants to specific types of communities that it believes would find real value in being off the energy grid:
"Hyperion power modules (HPMs) are a perfect alternative for those communities -- such as military bases, hospital and college campuses, - that, for security, reliability, or financial reasons, desire to be independent of their local utility's power source. Equally important is Hyperion's ability to bring heat for industrial uses and electricity for infrastructure and homes to remote locations with no reasonable access to reliable energy. For example: over 25% of the world's population does not have access to clean water. Hyperion can solve this appalling situation by providing the power to pump, clean, and process life's essential element, thereby turning the tide on disease, poverty and social unrest."
The Hyperion nuclear plant -- also called the Hyperion Hydride Reactor -- would eliminate the need for much energy infrastructure, save for the seven-year refueling:
One of the largest problems in the energy industry today is the transmission of power from the large power generating facilities to distant locations. The Hyperion Hydride Reactor is small and portable. According to its developers, the device provides the long-awaited solution to the need for cost-efficient, practical power sources in rural or remote locations. The module is sealed at the factory and is not opened until it needs to be "refueled" (the reactor has a uranium hydride core, surrounded by a hydrogen atmosphere). The manufacturer claims refueling should take place approximately every five years. The precautionary measures of containing the reactor and of completely burying the module at the operating site are designed to minimize the possibility of human incompetence or hostile tampering.