The Speculist: The Technology that Will Save the World


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The Technology that Will Save the World

Dispatches from a rapidly changing, rapidly improving world

Special Dispatch
November 26 , 2009

We're running BATT's every day during Thanksgiving week.

The title is perhaps a bit overstated, even in the more modest form that Esquire used, but the idea the man is supporting is an excellent one:

The miracle solution goes by different names: the sodium fast reactor, the integral fast reactor, the liquid-metal-cooled reactor. It burns nuclear waste, emits no CO2, and shuts itself down in an accident. We have enough fuel to power the whole world for tens of thousands of years. It will end global warming, and even if global warming is just another paranoid Armageddon fantasy, it will save us from the dying oceans and starvation and resource wars that are inevitable as the world's energy supply dwindles. It will unleash new industries and revitalize America's manufacturing industry.

Turning nuclear waste into nuclear fuel, eliminating the problem of what to do with waste, coupled with smart shut-down technology, ensuring that a melt-down simply can't occur, allows us to see the nuclear power in a new light. Actually, it allows us to see nuclear power in the old light, the light in which it was originally pitched to us: cheap, clean, limitless energy. It's exciting that we can now consider a new technology that will help realize that promise without the dreaded downsides.

What is even more exciting is that the sodium fast reactor isn't the only option we have for doing that:

Hyperion Power Generation Inc. revealed the design for the first version of the Hyperion Power Module (HPM) that it intends to have licensed and manufactured at facilities in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The HPM is a safe, self-contained, simple-to-operate nuclear power reactor, which is small enough to be manufactured en masse and transported in its entirety via ship, truck, or rail. Euphemistically referred to as a "fission battery," the HPM will deliver 70 megawatts of thermal energy, or approximately 25 megawatts of electricity. This amount of energy is enough to supply electricity to 20,000+ average American-style homes or the industrial/commercial equivalent. "In response to market demand for the HPM, we have decided on a uranium nitride-fueled, lead bismuth-cooled, fast reactor for our ‘launch' design," said John R. Grizz Deal, Hyperion Power's CEO. "For those who like to categorize nuclear technologies, we suppose this advanced reactor could be called a Gen IV++ design."

We've written about Hyperion here on the blog and discussed it on the podcast a couple of times. The idea of the portable power plant that can be carried o the back of a truck certainly has its appeal. In addition to the environmental and economic benefits already discussed, such a model would allow power to be sourced locally, not subject to the vulnerabilities of a national grid.

So now we're talking about cheap and clean energy which is "safe" in more than one sense of the word.

Should we proceed cautiously when putting these new technologies in place? Absolutely.

We should proceed cautiously. Which not only means that we are cautious, by the way.

It means that we proceed.

Live to see it!


Hyperion's CEO is named John R. Grizz Deal? Easter egg! He's obviously an Outside Player gaming the simulation that is our universe. ?

Taking the lowest number (7 years) for the life of their reactor, the cost is about three and a quarter cents per kilowatt. That sounds good from a retail perspective but that is without factoring in the cost of the $50 million dollar investment in the power plant, the cost of building the distribution system, or the cost of maintaining/operating the system for the seven years.

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