Atom Wave: The Dream Of The Micro-Nuke

Atom Wave

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Dream Of The Micro-Nuke

The Architect has bought out Darkstar’s stock.

We all have the same dream: a wife, two kids, a nice home, and a nuclear reactor. This dream might soon be in sight for many Americans, assuming that they own 25,000 homes.

The company Hyperion Power Generation is currently attempting to patent a new self-contained fission reactor system that would be about the size of a home water heater and output about 27 megawatts of thermal energy. It gets better; the device would not even require a human operator and would take minimal assembly. The deal is that you take a critical mass of uranium hydride, enclose it in a hydrogen isotope atmosphere, and encase it in concrete. Then all that needs to be done is to truck it to the site, hook it up to a steam turbine, bury it underground and you are done.

This machine is the product of Hyperion Power Generation, a start-up of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the insight of Otis Peterson in 2003. The plan is to be building 4,000 of these machines in New Mexico by about 2012. The company claims that this device would not be a reactor, but instead a battery since it contains no moving parts.

In theory, the nuclear reaction would be self-sustaining. The critical uranium mass would output heat, neutrons, radiation, and fission products. The light atoms of the hydrogen atmosphere would dissipate the energy of the damaging neutrons and fission products while transferring the heat energy to an exchanger for the steam turbine. The final concrete case and Earth would absorb any remaining energy.

Nuclear batteries have been in existence for some time actually. The first one was launched into space in 1961 aboard a Navy Transit Satellite. Conventional nuclear batteries or Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators rely on the natural decay of Plutonium 238 instead of fission. They provide the advantage of very long lives, but are not very efficient. They have only been used on satellites and remote unmanned outposts.

It still remains to be seen if these machines will ever be used commercially or by the military, but they have already earned their inventor Otis an award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium of Technology.


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