The Corpus Callosum

Run Household With Battery?

Apparently, it is not only possible to run a household with
a battery,
but to run 25,000 with a battery: a battery that uses uranium hydride.

i-fdd7c78b268cf271ed236d7fc33ad4ee-HPG_logo_800.gif

The device is being developed from technology  from
Los Alamos National
Laboratory
, by a
company called rel="tag">Hyperion Power Generation.  In
an article in the href="http://sfreporter.com/articles/publish/outtake-112107-nuke-to-the-future.php">Santa
Fe Reporter, it is explained:

cellspacing="8" width="200">
i-b94e079dccd5c7ff0fff200bb1ff4acc-hyperion-nuke.jpg
height="3" width="1">
Invented
by scientist
Otis Peterson, Hyperion’s patent for a hydride reactor is
still pending.

The
portable
nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub. It’s shaped like a
sake cup,
filled with a uranium hydride core and surrounded by a hydrogen
atmosphere. Encase it in concrete, truck it to a site, bury it
underground, hook it up to a steam turbine and, voilà, one
would
generate enough electricity to power a 25,000-home community for at
least five years.

The question, of course, is this: Is it a good idea to
generate power like this?


The battery is made with uranium hydride (UH3).
 Uranium hydride href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12917582.000-fire-danger-at-north-wales-nuclear-store-.html">bursts
into flame in the presence of air.  I am not sure if
it can be used to make nuclear fission weapons.  There have
been 
UH3
bombs, albeit lousy ones.  [The only href="http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/Upshotk.html">two
test explosions yielded about the equivalent of 200 tons (not
kilotons) of TNT.]  The bombs used
UH3 made
with deuterium; the article does not say what isotope of hydrogen is
used in the Hyperion units.  Of course, anything radioactive
could be used to make a dirty bomb.  Even so, I doubt it would
be feasible to do so with this device.

The reactor-battery generates 27 megawatts of power.  However,
I note in the description, they say that is the total thermal energy.
 They do not say what percentage of that energy can be
captured in a usable form.  

They do provide something of a cost analysis on the Hyperion website:

Hyperion offers a 30% reduction in capital
costs from convention gigawatt installations (from $2,000 per kW to
$1400 per kW). Hyperion also offers a 70% reduction in operating costs
(based on costs for field-generation of steam in oil-shale recovery
operations), from $11 per million BTU for natural gas to $3 per million
BTU for Hyperion. The possibility of mass production, operation and
standardization of design, allows for significant savings.


To put this in context: they are referring to an implementation at the
site of processing.  what they do not share with us,
is how (or if) they accounted for the costs of dealing with
decommissioning the unit.  

Would it make sense to go ahead and start making these things?
 Perhaps.  One of the problems that href="http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/" rel="tag">Peak
Oil futurists worry about, is that it takes energy
to make energy
.  If we get into a situation where we
do not have the electricity to run the facilities to make solar and
wind power units, we may have to turn to untested technology.  

Even so, it would make the most sense to proceed slowly.
 Build a few of these things, see how they work, iron out the
bugs.  A few of them will not make the nuclear waste problem
perceptibly worse than it already is.  If the initial units
are placed carefully, security should not be too big of a problem.
 However, I would not rush into this, make hundreds of the
things, before we see a few of them go through their entire operational
life.

Comments

  1. #1 Lassi Hippeläinen
    November 24, 2007

    “They do not say what percentage of that energy can be captured in a usable form.”

    They can’t beat the Carnot Cycle, so the efficiency of producing electricity would be around 30%. Higher total efficiency is possible in cold climates, where excess heat can be used to warm houses.

    Their no-pollution claims are doubtful. Making the fuel requires something, and in the end you have to decommission the site.

  2. #2 bigTom
    November 24, 2007

    I’m presuming if they say UH3 that the H is ordinary hydrogen. The mass two isotope is normally refered to a Dueterium, and designated by the letter D. mass 3 Tritium would be a T. Unless a very vigorous fission blast were generated, with temperatures in the hundreds of millions Deuterium wouldn’t ignite, so presumably this baby couldn’t be made into a fusion boosted nuke bomb.

    The bigger question is what is the isotopic compostion of the Uranium. For most forms of reactor we need more U235 than is found in natural Uranium. At first I thought this was a Nuclear battery, whereby a radioactive substance undergoes ordinary radioactive decay, and either thermoelectic, or deposition of high energy charged products on a high voltage collector is used to generate electricity. These latter have been used in spacecraft operations.
    Presumably this is a subcritical reactor, i.e. one fission yields some neutrons, slighly less than one of which causes another fission. There is some small amount of slow fission, so it is possible to be in a critical state to slow fission, but be incapable of a nuke explosion (but that could still lead to a meltdown if not stopped). So I presume this design just can’t reach such a state no matter what you do with it.

    Yes, OilSands require a lot of heating to liberate the oil. Apparently they also require a lot of water. It is thought by the peak oil people that although the resource base is large, environmental constraints will
    severely limit the rate of extraction to a few hundred thousand barrels a day. Since Northern Alberta doesn’t get much winter sun, solar thermal could probably only be used for a few months per year.

  3. #3 Tristan
    November 25, 2007

    Let’s not forget that Uranium is a non-renewable ressource that’s about to peak as well.

  4. #4 bigTom
    November 25, 2007

    Tristan, I have the impression that a great deal of Uranium would be extractable at higher price points. It is also true that if we did reprocessing, or used the so-called fourth generation reactors, that we would use much more of the Uranium. Current boiling water reactor fuel cycles, discard most of the fuel as waste.

  5. #5 David Hartig
    December 6, 2007

    I just seen a website called water4gas.com. It seems that hydrogen can be produced very easily whether it’s in your car to get much better MPG or in your home. This should be used everywhere for the betterment of mankind but you probably already know this science. Anyway, cool website.

    To Science,

    D

  6. #6 Brian Wang
    December 10, 2007

    I had some information taken from the patent and from conversation with the company (Hyperion).

    There is an error in the Sante Fe Reporter. The planned unit will generate 17-25MW of electric power. Thus the Carnot efficiency is a separate thing from the error in the orginal report.

    It is a simplified variation of a solid core reactor. a good design will burn 50% of the nuclear fuel. Current water boiler, pressure reactors and heavy water reactors burn 0.7-2% of the nuclear fuel. So this reactor would be about 40 times more efficient with nuclear fuel.

    The use of the device for recovering oil shale to use a $40-50 million device to save $400 million per year in energy costs for oil recovery means that market is highly profitable. Several hundred of the first devices seem destined for that purpose.

    Then siting these small reactors at existing nuclear power plant sites and coal power plant sites to increase power supply would mean more cleaner power without increasing risks.

    After 5 years, the device would opened and refueled.

  7. #7 Video izle
    March 14, 2008

    Let’s not forget that Uranium is a non-renewable ressource that’s about to peak as well.

  8. #8 youtube
    March 19, 2008

    subcritical reactor, i.e. one fission yields some neutrons, slighly less than one of which causes another fission. There is some small amount of slow fission, so it is possible to be in a critical state to slow fission, but be incapable of a nuke explosion (but that could still lead to a meltdown if not stopped)

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