Apparently, it is not only possible to run a household with
but to run 25,000 with a battery: a battery that uses uranium hydride.
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:
nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub. It’s shaped like a
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
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
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 href="http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/OurBusiness/oilsands.asp">oil
sands 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