Hyperion to build first small nuclear reactor at US DOE complex
Hyperion Power Generation has agreed to build a prototype mini-nuclear reactor at a US Department of Energy small modular reactor demonstration complex, officials said Thursday. The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Savannah River National Laboratory Thursday to build the first demonstration reactor at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Hyperion is developing a 25-MW fast reactor that uses uranium nitride fuel and lead bismuth eutectic coolant. The parties aim to build an operational prototype by 2017 or 2018, said Mike Nevetta of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which operates the Savannah River Site. He also said Thursday that the demo reactor will not connect to the grid but will produce electricity for internal use on site. Constructing the Hyperion prototype will cost $50 million, which will largely come from private sources, said Deborah Blackwell, Hyperion vice president of licensing and public affairs....MOREAnd a bit of backround from Nuclear Townhall, Sept. 29, 2010:
Deborah Deal-Blackwell is part of an ambitious brother-sister team that is shaking up the world of nuclear energy. Working hand-in-hand with the Los Alamos Laboratory’s Technology Transfer Division, Deal-Blackwell and her brother John “Grizz” Deal had already created several small spin-offs four years ago when they came in contact with Dr. Otis “Pete” Peterson, who had invented a small modular reactor he thought could be used in remote mining and tar sands development. Together they founded Hyperion Power Generation with Grizz serving as CEO and Deal-Blackwell as vice president for public policy and licensing.
Deal-Blackwell immediately saw the possibility of wider applications for the reactor. She persuaded Peterson and Grizz, who was “entrepreneur-in-residence” at Los Alamos, to journey to Washington to make a presentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “At the time, the NRC didn’t even have anyone assigned to SMRs,” she recalls.
What happened next is the stuff of legend. According to some stories, the NRC told them to go away until they found a customer. According to others . . . well, we’ll let her tell it. In any case, Hyperion has taken the small modular reactor idea and run with it, putting them on the map. Last March Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial saying SMRs might be the future of nuclear energy in America.
Now Hyperion has a customer. This month the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Savannah River National Laboratory to employ a Hyperion Power Module to power its energy park. Tomorrow, after four years of effort, Deal-Blackwell and her co-founders will sit down with NRC officials in Washington to begin discussing how the Commission might begin regulatory review for the nation’s first small modular reactor.HT on the Nuclear Town Hall interview Next Big Future:
Here’s what Blackwell had to tell us about the effort:
NTH: What are the Hyperion Power Module ’s main features?
DEAL-BLACKWELL: It’s probably the smallest of the small reactors now heading toward licensure in the U.S. At 70 MWthermal / 25 MWelectric the HPM is really in the class of “mini”-reactors. Each reactor unit is 1.5 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters tall – about the size of two residential hot tubs stacked together. We wanted it to be small enough to fit on one truck, which is important because the unit is sealed at the assembly plant. It’s completely assembled off-site and buried in the ground in a specially designed vault. After that, it’s not to be opened or refueled. The whole assembly, including the electricity-generating component, sits on less than an acre. The entire plant can be constructed in just a few months. At the end of its useful life, which is around 10 years, we take the entire sealed reactor back to the factory where it can be refueled. We’ve got one of the few business plans that doesn’t involve leaving spent fuel on the customer’s site.
NTH: Does the design of the HPM have anything to do with submarine reactors or is this completely different?
DEAL-BLACKWELL: The Soviet Union created submarines using lead-cooled fast reactors that were so fast the West was forced into revamping its own technology. A lot of inspiration comes from the Soviets’ Alfa class submarine but our design team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has made significant improvements on our own....MORE