Power to Overall Weight Ratio of the 2013 Hyperion Power Nuclear Reactor

The Hyperion Power Generation uranium hydride reactor will weigh fifteen to 20 tons, depending on whether you’re measuring just the reactor itself or the cask—the container that we ship it in—as well. It was specifically designed to fit on the back of a flatbed truck because most of our customers are not going to have rail. It’s about a meter-and-a-half across and about 2 meters tall. It will generate 27-30 Megawatts of electrical power from 70 MW of thermal power. This means 0.5 to 0.75 tons per MWe for the nuclear reactor. The steam turbine to convert the power is counted separately. Using a lot less material (including 10 to 20 times greater efficiency with the Uranium fuel) means that the uranium hydride reactor can be scaled to provide more power. Eventual use of advanced thermoelectrics instead of steam turbines would mean that the weight of the reactor and power conversion would be less than one ton per MWe.

The 15-20 ton 27-30 MWe Hyperion nuclear reactor will be factory mass produced starting in about 2013. It uses ten to twenty times less material and less uranium fuel as current reactors which will allow society to scale this up a lot more. Goal of 12 month from order to finished factory product. Goal is to make hundreds to thousands each year. Here is a description of how Hyperion Power Generation plans to leverage proven Triga reactor safety systems and processes.

The reactor core of an S6G (26MWe) submarine nuclear power plant (just the vessel that holds the fuel and the fuel itself) weighs about 110 +/-3 tons. It needs 20000 gallons (80 tons) of water for coolant. After you add in the rest of its systems you are looking at at least 1000 tons of machinery. The reactor fits in a space about 10m long, 10m wide, and 12m tall. Two hundred times more space than the Hyperion Reactor. The S6G is rated at about 130 megawatts thermal power. The electric output is 26 megawatts.

The Hyperion reactor portion is 9-13 times lighter than the submarine core and water coolant. The Hyperion reactor does not have water coolant.

Current light water nuclear reactor power plants have 36-51 tons of steel per MWe and 324 tons of cement per MWe. 600-800 times less weight for Hyperion UH reactor and probably at least 30 times more material per MWe over a full Hyperion reactor facility.

High temperature (HTR-PB) reactors will use about 118 tons of steel and concrete per MWe. HTR-PB is one third the weight of regular reactors but at least ten times more than the Hyperion Uranium Hydride reactor.

Here is a comparison to help put the system’s potential into perspective. A single truck can deliver the HPM heat source to a site. The device is supposed to be able to produce 70 MW of thermal energy for 5 years. That means that the truck will be delivering about 10.5 trillion BTU’s to the site. Natural gas costs about $7 per million BTU which would would cost $73 million.

That is about 3 times as much as the announced selling price for an HPM, but the advantage does not stop there – the HPM is targeted for places where there are no gas pipelines to deliver gas, so natural gas is not available at any price.

Instead, it would be better to compare the HPM to diesel fuel, which currently costs about 2 times as much per unit of useful heat as natural gas and still requires some form of delivery for remote locations. In some places, fuel transportation costs are two or three times as much as the cost of the fuel from the central supply points.

In certain very difficult terrains, or in places where there are people who like to shoot at tankers, delivery costs can be 100 times as much as the basic cost of the fuel.

The Hyperion Power Generation reactor is four to five times smaller than one of four coolant pumps in an AP-1000 nuclear reactor


Triga reactors at General Atomics. Triga are teaching reactors that are safe enough to be operated by university students and walk-away safe. Over 60 Triga reactors have been built and some used for decades.

NASA made news with a proposed 10-40KWe RTG for lunar power. The Hyperion power generation nuclear reactor would have 1000 times more power, which would enable real industrialization of the moon. There is nuclear material on the moon, so if transporting a functional nuclear reactor is an issue, then a unit could be delivered which had everything with refined nuclear material sent in separate rocket deliveries. After industrialization of the moon, mining, processing and refinement of nuclear materials can be set up on the moon.

Laser enrichment could be made more compact.

KREEP, an acronym built from the letters K (the atomic symbol for the element potassium), REE (Rare Earth Elements) and P (for phosphorus), is a geochemical component of some lunar impact melt breccia and basalt rocks.

JAXA—Japan’s space agency—also announced that the Selene mission has gathered detailed information regarding the mineral composition of parts of the Moon’s surface, including thorium, potassium, and uranium sites.

Moonminer looks at mining the 2-6 ppm of uranium from KREEP on the moon.

Uranium concentrations on earth

Getting uranium from low concentration sources.

21 thoughts on “Power to Overall Weight Ratio of the 2013 Hyperion Power Nuclear Reactor”

  1. Suicide terrorists don’t appear to care much about surviving the attack. Getting a ratiation suit is not a big deal, nor are the power tools to open the reactor.

    I think security issues are manageable, but not at reasonable financial cost, especially not when you build millions of the things all over the world – that’s what we have to do to nake a big impact on global energy. Why bother with it anyway if it can’t supply a significant fraction of world energy needs?

    Here’s a newsflash for you: ATM’s get robbed a lot, often not succesful but because there are so many of them around the world, the absolute number of succesful thefts is actually quite high.

    A few thousand bucks stolen is a manageable and acceptable risk. Diversion of dirty bomb material isn’t.

    This is not a fear mongering attempt. Rather, I advise not getting ourselves into actions that become inevitably and utterly unmanageable with scale-up. Especially because centralised nukes work just fine. They don’t have to be GW size, a few tens of MW might be suitable and have acceptable security overhead.

    Also, material use of micro nukes would be high compared to similar capacity centralised nukes, so it’s not a good idea from a resource viewpoint either.

  2. In terms of incremental risk from small reactors, is it easier to get the nuclear material for a dirty bomb from these new reactors or from some other existing source ? Medical supplies, digging up radioactive material etc…

    If it is a lot harder to get and use the material from any new small reactors then there is no incremental risk.

    There are a million ATMs for providing money but they are rarely robbed. Because it is easier to mug someone or perform non-violent identity theft or some other scam to get the money.




    ATMs have GPS tracking etc…

    Smaller nuclear reactors can be made more secure than ATMs and as secure as bank vaults.
    GPS tracking and other monitoring and security devices and cameras.

    Plus initial siting can be on already secured grounds of existing reactors as when uprating has reached limits. I am not suggesting that small reactors get placed in malls, but in more secure locations. There are plenty of places that are already more secure.

    Then the people who crack a small reactor have to do something with the material. Some nuclear material is “self-sealing” in that someone has to protect themselves from being killed as they open up the reactor.

  3. I think anonymous does have a good point here. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of tiny reactors are impossible to control in terms of material diversion for dirty bombs – at least not at an affordable cost. A group with reasonable resources would not have much difficulty with succesful malignant action. Just pick one out of all the hundreds of thousands or even millions that is least well protected.

    Centralized big nuclear power is great. This idea just isn’t.

  4. I believe the hoax part is that Toshiba was going to actually manufacture the rapid-L, which I did say seemed doubtful. The Rapid-L research was real.

  5. nothing that cannot be solved with a solid moderator emergency backup, or other safety systems that would be required by most sensible governments. multiple redundant systems are as standard installed in all nuclear plants, and with those all failing there should be a bed of Borides, or other moderator granules (powder/dust, hell, even porous bricks of the stuff) to prevent the meltdown from contaminating the watertable and entering the enviroment… andeven more safety’s preventing gaseous waste from entering the atmosphere.

    i’m guessing your from an anti-nuclear group Anonymous, otherwise you would have looked these up prior to posting a flawed arguement.

  6. I know it’s not possible to make a chain-reaction nuclear bomb out of reactor material, but it should be possible to get a meltdown of the reactor core. Is it so that you just need to leak the Lithium-6 for that?

  7. So basically a nuclear reactor uses totally different principles then a nuclear bomb.

    I guess maybe if it was that easy to make a nuclear bomb, we would have something like in “the sum of all fears” where they had a nuclear bomb in a vending machine.

    But still, to say these things are fail safe is in fact a big lie, because nothing is ever fail safe.

  8. Put it this way, anonymous; can the local park be turned into a nuclear bomb? All the elements are there, so what’s to stop someone from extracting all those lovely raw materials, processing them, fabricating precision machined components and detonating the resulting bomb? The process is no easier starting with a micro reactor.

    However, I expect you are being elastic, to put it politely, with your definition of nuclear bomb. Studies of potential radioactive dispersal (“dirty”) conventional bombs show that they are much less effective in hurting people than (say) biological/chemical weapons of a similar degree of difficulty. However the weapon of the terrorist is fear, whether rational or not. It’s therefore your duty as an interested party to make sure that you do not spread irrational fear about the spread of radioactive material; after all many thousands of radioactive people go safely home from hospital every day.

  9. So micro nuclear reacots can’t turn into a nuclear bomb, no matter how well someome modifies them? I know it can be fail safe, as they said it was, since it is impossible for anything to be fail safe. What ever can go wrong will go wrong. Murphy’s law.

    So if this thing is safe, If you were to open it some how while it was running, there would be no radiation at all, right? Doesnt deal with atoms and such?

  10. > So does it only matter if the deaths are from a more focused source ? A constant stream of increased cancer and heart disease deaths and coal mining deaths that result in the same death toll does not matter ?

    Apparently. That really does tell you that human beings aren’t rational, doesn’t it?

  11. My calculation is based on the world deaths from air pollution (4.5 million per year) as compared to US population levels. I know that the deaths are mostly happening in China and India. So are the deaths that happen outside the united states irrelevant ?

    If we are to only discuss past deaths from a source that only happened in the USA then there have been no deaths from nuclear weapons in the USA (they all happened in Japan). If we are to discuss past deaths from nuclear reactors then they primarily happened in the Ukraine.

    250,000 some deaths from air pollution each year in Europe.

    1.3 million people (expected US air pollution deaths) is equal to the seventh largest city in the USA

    If nuclear reactor related events at some point over the next 23 years killed everyone in San Antonio what would be the reaction of the US population ?

    How about everyone in the cities of Boston and San Francisco ?

    Either case is less than 1.3 million people.

    So does it only matter if the deaths are from a more focused source ? A constant stream of increased cancer and heart disease deaths and coal mining deaths that result in the same death toll does not matter ?

  12. > In 23 years (by 2030), air pollution from fossil fuels will kill the equivalent of one third of the population of the USA.

    Umm your arithmetic is way, way off. 60,000 x 23 is about 1.3 million. Which is about 0.3% af the population of the USA. A third of a percent doesn’t sound like much though.

  13. Anonymous

    If you even glanced at the documents which were referenced you would see that many research groups (big universities and national labs) and companies in most of the developed countries of the world are working on micro and small reactors and think they are a good idea. There are several policy studies (several from MIT) that examine the issues around small reactors.

    In regards to safety.
    1) nuclear reactors are completely different from nuclear bombs. Why was there a twenty year gap between the development of the atomic bomb and commercial nuclear fission reactors for energy ? Because they are very different. Why after over sixty years is Iran and other countries still struggling (despite) a lot of resources to make their first atomic bomb ? Because they are complicated and difficult things to make. The N Korea test bomb only produced 1000 tons of TNT explosive equivalent (the recent culmination of a decade of research and effort. N Korea had a nuclear reactor for years). About 20 times more than the largest russian chemical bomb. Getting nanosecond timing is not a simple thing and does not happen by accident, you have to try really hard to design and build it deliberately.

    2) Coal and oil and natural gas are still 85%+ of the energy used in the world. Outdoor air pollution kills 3 million people per year and indoor air pollution kills 1.5 million people per year.

    12,300 people per day which is more than US Iraq war casualties + the deaths from 9/11 + the US afghanistan war casualties.

    The US has about 60,000+ deaths per year from air pollution. 24,000+ deaths per year just from coal pollution.

    In 23 years (by 2030), air pollution from fossil fuels will kill the equivalent of one third of the population of the USA. Equal to the population of the four largest states (California, New york, Texas and Florida).

    Are you serious about saving lives? Nuclear power will save lives by being the fastest way to displace fossil fuel use and reduce air pollution. It will still take decades but it is 20 times more than wind and solar combined.

    Humans have made fossil fuels into a key energy source too. What is your proposal to save those lives ?

  14. So the micro nuclear reactor.
    Um, who came up with this? Seriously? And who in their right mind could think this is a good idead?

    Oh it’s fail safe. No it isn’t. Nothing humans can make is fail safe. And if you are smart enough to make it fail, it will.

    Is toshiba Alqida, because they will love this.

    Micro Nuclear Reactor is a nuclear bomb with some modifacations.

    I think anyone that sees this as a good idea is a threat.

    The micro nuclear reacort will bring death!

  15. I do not know for certain about any mass production plans or the status of actual hardware. I only know that are a lot of paper studies and research has been done for 6+ years. I think they probably should have a working full size research reactor. That would not take much. It does not make much sense to me to start mass production of the Rapid-L. I think there are better small reactors in the development pipeline that could help make a real difference for global energy. The fuji MSR or the hyperion simplified solid core are ones that I think look pretty good. The Fuji MSR because it leaves no long term waste and the Hyperion because it looks good to help lower the cost of oil from oil shale in Colorado.

    The Rapid-L would work and look a lot better when thermoelectronics (see my articles on thermoelectric and the Freedomcar project) are more advanced by 2012-2015 and integrated into the design. Then the 5MWt could be converted to 1-2 MWe.

  16. Various sources confirm the existance of the Rapid-L research program.

    Uranium Information Centre Ltd
    A.B.N. 30 005 503 828
    GPO Box 1649, Melbourne 3001, Australia
    phone (03) 8616 0440

    The Rapid-L as presented to the American Nuclear Society
    See page 28 of the 42 page pdf.

    Startup Sequence of RAPID-L Fast Reactor for Lunar Base Power System, M.Kambe (CRIEPI-Japan), O. Sato, H. Tsunoda (Mitsubishi Research Institute Japan)

    Toshiba may have a prototype in the process of being built which would be ready for 2008 or 2009.

    There is no information other than the paper studies. It is not a very complicated as far as nuclear reactors go and is roughly equivalent to a potentially cheaper research reactor. There is no claim that I have seen that the reactor would be mass produced yet. The goal might be mass production but for now it looks like one off research reactors.

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