UPower wants to make a container sized nuclear fission reactor with 2% of the development cost of small nuclear reactors and get regulatory approval by 2019

UPower technology enables an always on, container-sized, truly carbon-free and emission-free nano-nuclear battery for remote and distributed generation where energy costs can exceed 30 cents/kWh, and power is needed 24/7. The generator is a containerized unit that provides over a decade of energy without refueling, and can generate electricity for 40% less than competing technologies in these markets. The UPower generator is powered by a unique compact, solid state, micro reactor that produces over 1 MW and can cogenerate process heat.

The key to the UPower strategy is its truly modular technology which enables the ultimate in lean development and in lean manufacturing. For this reason, UPower will have development costs on the order of 1/50th the size of other “small” nuclear technologies.

UPower reactors don’t have coolant flowing through them, don’t have pumps, and don’t have external pipes- basically a “nuclear battery.

When Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham passed the keys of his uber-successful seed accelerator program to Sam Altman in February, he did so with an eye on the future.

Graham’s interest was largely in internet startups, but Altman seems to have a taste for nuclear energy and biotech:

Power technology enables an always on, container-sized, truly carbon-free and emission-free nano-nuclear battery for remote and distributed generation where energy costs can exceed 30 cents/kWh, and power is needed 24/7. The generator is a containerized unit that provides over a decade of energy without refueling, and can generate electricity for 40% less than competing technologies in these markets. The UPower generator is powered by a unique compact, solid state, micro reactor that produces over 1 MW and can cogenerate process heat.

[Techcrunch] UPower is running on an aggressive timetable for a startup whose main product splits atoms. DeWitte aims to get regulatory approval in about four years, with production and sales happening over the year following that approval.

He says the company’s biggest advantage in the process is that right now, they don’t need to actually operate their reactors to get to the next phase with regulators: Since the fission process is fairly well understood at this point, the company is simulating those parts of the reactor while testing focuses on the heat transfer process that makes the system so adaptable for different uses.

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