Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Nov 11, 2008 in Blog, green technology | 1 comment

mini-nuke reactor

I had a surreal feeling as I was reading about mini-nuclear power plants that I was reading an article from The Onion:

The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years. Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory. An application to build the plants will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year.

‘You could never have a Chernobyl-type event – there are no moving parts,’ said Deal. ‘You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it’s too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.’

1 Comment

  1. Canada has been selling mini nuclear reactors since 1967, they’re called Slowpoke reactors. They are the only nuclear reactors in the world licensed for unattended operation (can’t count on students once the pub opens…)

    Granted they were designed as Cyclotron replacements to bombard samples with neutrons but they do produce heated water at 50 Celsius (135 Fahrenheit) which can in turn produce electricity via a Stirling engine. The Slowpoke III (designed to provide heating water for a community) was considered as a power retrofit for those four lemon submarines the Brits unloaded onto the Canadians and was to be the power plant for a commercial sub designed and built as a joint venture between France and Canada, the deal fell through on a funding dispute but not before the sub was actually built (does someone want a nice yacht?)

    The Canadian nuclear program is worth a closer look as it’s the only nuclear program in the world not tied to a weapons program of some sort. Indeed there are many half built Candu reactors around the world as the foreign governments presumably discovered they could not make weapons with the reactors and promptly pulled out of the deals. The Candu reactor, although a large traditional sized power plant that must be monitored by the likes of Homer Simpson, can actually run on natural uranium such that the spent fuel does not need any special storage or disposal. It can also run on the spent fuel rods of other designs.

    If you are really concerned about nuclear waste and terrorism, just buy Canadian nuclear power plants.