May 23, 2008

Hyperion uranium hydride nuclear battery update

It is 1.5 meters or 4 feet 9 inches across.

The Hyperion Power Generation "nuclear battery" is a self contained, automated, liquid metal nuclear reactor. The company has venture capital funding.

Each HPM provides 70 MW thermal energy or 25 MW electric energy via steam turbine for seven to ten years. This amount of energy provides electricity for 20,000 average American-style homes or the industrial or infrastructure equivalent. Each module will cost $25 to $30 million. This works out to a cost of $1000-1200/KW, but the company has quoted $1400/Kw. A couple of delivery dates starting in 2013 are available. 2012 has been targetted as the time when the first units will be deployed.

Nextbigfuture has previously examined the patent for this reactor and the primary initial application which would be providing cheaper and more effective heat for oilsand and oil shale oil extraction. Over 2 trillion barrels of oil is available in Canada and the United states in the form of oilshale or oilsand.

Hyperion 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. They expect an initial market of 4000 units, which would provide 100GW of power. This is equal to the current nuclear power generated in the USA. There will be 10-40 times less nuclear waste because the units have 50% burnup of the nuclear fuel.

Currently about 1100 cubic feet of natural gas is needed to extract one barrel of oil from the Alberta oilsands. This could decline to 900 cubic feet with more efficient processes. One cubic foot of natural gas is about 1000 BTU. So 900,000 to 1.1 million BTU are needed to extract one barrel of oil from the oilsands.

Other benefits:
Water not used as coolant; cannot go “supercritical” or get too hot.

No mechanical parts in the core to malfunction

Sealed module, never opened on site
The uranium hydride reactor could also have a large impact on space travel.

Canadian researchers have considered using conventional nuclear reactors to provide steam for oilsands oil recovery.

A 728 MWe (gross) nominal electric output ACR-700 design generates 1983 MW (thermal). The CANDU reactor can be adapted to provide steam of 2-6 MPa.
An ACR700 would provide in one configuration 140MWe (net), 420,000 barrels/day/steam and supply pressure of 2.2 MPa. The production rate of bitumen using this steam would depend on the steam/oil ratios required in the SAGD wells. For steam/oil ratios of 212.4-224 degrees celsius the bitumen production rates would be 168,000-210,000 bbl/day. The project would achieve a 10% advantage in steam cost even if natural gas were at USD3.25/mmbtu. The twin 2.2 GWe reactor proposal would generate 507,000 to 634000 bbl/day in a similar configuration with similar assumptions.

The Uranium hydride batteries can provide heat at many smaller oil properties so less piping would be necessary. The uranium hydride reactors would also be more portable and could be moved from project to project.


Ray The Money Man said...

Great post. I think most people don't realize how "dirty" working the shale really is. Makes modern day offshore drilling look like green drilling methods.

Elantrix said...

What is it's half-life when it leaks or gets tempered with, what happens when overheated will it explode?

Also cant it be converted to a bomb in the wrong hands?

Pretty much all the reasons why even medical nuclear reactors are even well guarded.

Quinn said...

Since it wasn't discussed in the article, I'm posting the following comments to help dispel the public fear of nuclear energy, and it's association with weapons of mass destruction.

Saying a reactor can be converted into a bomb is like saying paper can be turned into a bomb. It just doesn't work. The difference is this:

Uranium comes in two primary flavors:
and Uranium-235

Uranium-238 is not fissile, (Layman's terms: it's relatively stable).

Uranium-235 is fissile. And is what is used in nuclear weapons.

Reactor grade uranium
96.5% Uranium-238 (the stable stuff)
3.5% Uranium-235. (the unstable stuff)

Weapons grade:
Over 90% U-235 (the unstable stuff)

This number is important. A nuclear weapon's core MUST BE MORE THAN 90% U-235 in order to work AT ALL>

That being said, it is a mathematical IMPOSSIBILITY for a reactor to be converted into a bomb.

I can't stress how important it is for the general public to know the difference between a nuclear reactor and a nuclear bomb.

Oh, and before anyone brings up Chernobyl or 3 Mile Island;
do your research.

3 Mile Island happened because:
The main coolant relief valve was the equivalent of a garden valve with a VCR motor to turn it. Needless to say the valve got stuck open, the coolant got drained, and there was nothing to cool the reactor.

Chernobyl happened because;
A. it was built by people who didn't know how to build it
B. The cooling rods were tipped with graphite, which actually makes the reactor HOTTER.