1. There is a lengthy article in Inc Magazine feature John Grizz, CEO of Hyperion Power Generation The first model is a uranium nitride reactor that will sell for $45-70 million “all in” and provide 25 MW of electrical power. The company was told teh NRC will start evaluation February of 2011.
Deal gives a quick sketch of how his nuclear plant works: A room-size reactor is buried underground, where the uranium fuel heats up metal, which in turn heats up water sent to a conventional electricity-generating steam turbine above-ground.
“The top question you’ll get from your customers,” he continues, “will be about safety and security.” And that just happens to be Hyperion’s strong point. He goes on to describe how the more conventionally designed mini nuke offerings from other competitors resemble “big teakettles,” in which boiling water around the nuclear core provides cooling and heat transfer, with a “real potential for failure.” (No turbine water runs through Hyperion’s metal-filled reactor.)
“Our reactor is more like a battery,” Deal says. Bad guys can’t get at the sealed core, he says, and even if they could, they wouldn’t be able to do anything with the molten, non-weapons-grade mess. “We’re not quite as efficient as the others,” he admits. “But who cares? We’re about safety and security, and we make our price point.”
Deal continues to pound on safety. The reactor is sealed at the factory and shipped to the customer’s site for burying. It runs for seven to 10 years, without requiring refueling or tampering with. Other reactors need human intervention, and that’s where accidents tend to occur, Deal observes. After the Hyperion unit is spent, customers can swap in a new reactor “cartridge,” simply leave it buried, or let Hyperion dig it up and take it away for recycling.
“There’s plenty of heat available,” Deal tells Barnes. “That’s free energy, and Mace could use it to set up a water- or sewage-treatment business.” Another profit-line suggestion, though it’s an unlikely one — most power plants give off heat, and the obvious opportunity is to provide warmth to buildings, not to clean water and sewage. As it turns out, though, water is one of Deal’s obsessions. He sees nuclear power as a means to an end: to address the lack of clean water that leaves huge swaths of the planet mired in sickness, poverty, and even warfare
Barnes seems delighted with the notion of all that free heat, though it’s not clean water he’s thinking about. Heat, as it happens, can also be used to power chilling units, which means that Hyperion’s plant could reduce the huge costs of cooling a data center’s computers. “I hadn’t even thought of that,” Barnes says.
Barnes explains that a certain very large, very ubiquitous U.S. company [my guess Google] is interested in building a number of massive new data centers around the globe, and Mace will likely be putting one up in the U.K. Deal asks what the electrical demands would be and then calculates that Mace would need two reactors. “You’d probably be looking at $90 million, all in,” he says.
Launching a Hyperion plant in the U.K. will require approval from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. Getting the agency to process the application quickly and skip some of the red tape with which it could bury Hyperion will be critical to success.
The real market is in smaller and less-developed countries that are desperate for cheap, local power and could never afford a large, conventional nuclear plant. Eastern European countries, he says, have long depended on Russian-built facilities, but now they want to distance themselves from Russia and need something cheaper than the big Western units. Deal notes that most of Hyperion’s customers are from these markets. “Nigeria alone is a potential big buyer,” he adds. “It’s ready for nuclear, but they need to start small.”
“We have great connections with the U.S. military, and they’re not bound by regulatory agencies,” he says. “We have political connections who see us as having a chance to be the ones who lead a U.S. nuclear renaissance. We’re overcommitted on orders. We keep hearing, ‘When will you be able to ship us one?’ And we hear it in a lot of different accents. And we’re not worried about the approval process
Uranium Oxide and Berrylium Fuel
2. IBC Advanced alloys says that they target revenues of $50 million by 2014 for Berrylium alloy nuclear fuel. They have manufacturing capacity for more than $100 million in revenue. It is a $2 billion market for Beryllium and its alloys.
Existing work by Purdue nuclear engineers has shown that an advanced UO2 – BeO nuclear fuel could potentially save billions of dollars annually by lasting longer and burning more efficiently than conventional nuclear fuels while at the same time increasing demand for beryllium and beryllium oxide. In addition to the cost savings, an advanced UO2 – BeO nuclear fuel could also contribute significantly to the operational safety of both current and future nuclear reactors due to its superior thermal conductivity and associated decrease in risks of overheating or meltdown.
The Berrylium fuel research is a project at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. The project has developed a new fuel pellet, which includes beryllium oxide in addition to uranium oxide. The result is a pellet with superior heat conductivity and longer service life. The new pellet is not specifically aimed at reducing uranium consumption, but rather at increasing power output, reducing pellet degradation and lengthening the time period between fuel recharge cycles. The pellet can be used with existing fuel rod and reactor designs.
This “skeleton” of beryllium oxide enables the nuclear fuel to conduct heat at least 50 percent better than conventional fuels. Because uranium oxide does not conduct heat well, during a reactor’s operation there is a large temperature difference between the center of the pellets and their surface, causing the center of the fuel pellets to become very hot. The heat must be constantly removed by a reactor cooling system because overheating could cause the fuel rods to melt, which could lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident and release of radiation – the proverbial “meltdown.”
“Currently, the nuclear fuel has to be replaced every three years or so because of the temperature-related degradation of the fuel, as well as consumption of the U-235. If the fuel can be left longer, there is more power produced and less waste generated. If you can operate at a lower temperature, you can use the fuel pellets for a longer time, burning up more of the fuel, which is very important from an economic point of view. Lower temperatures also means safer, more flexible reactor operation.”
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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