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Underground Mini Nuclear Reactors to Power Homes Within 5 Years?

Mini Nuclear Reactors For Sale Within Five YearsWe're not totally opposed to building new nuclear plants to help ween us off of foreign oil, but we're not really comfortable with having one literally in our back yards. Hyperion, an energy company based out of New Mexico, has licensed technology from the U.S. government that will allow it to build miniature nuclear power plants capable of powering up to 20,000 homes for six to seven years without refueling. The company hopes to produce its first commercially available generator in five years at a cost of $25 million with hopes of selling them to small communities.

These small-scale power plants (roughly the size of a tool-shed) are encased in concrete, contain no moving parts, and are designed to be buried underground. The company claims these safety features, in addition to using lower grade uranium (which will be difficult, if not impossible, to refine into weapons grade material), mean the reactors can be deployed in developing nations and U.S. neighborhoods at minimal risk to health and nuclear proliferation. We think it might be underestimating the tenacity of those who would seek nuclear material for a weapon.

Since the technology is based on 50-year-old designs used in university research labs across the country, Hyperion expects it will face minimal opposition from local populations and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will review the company's application next year.

Even if the tiny reactors are used to power just half of the potential 20,000 homes, the cost is still only $2,500 per household for at least six years of electricity, or about $413 per year -- significantly less than most U.S. homes spend on a year's worth of power. Hyperion will have to work quickly, however. Other companies, including Toshiba, are also working on mini reactors. Toshiba's design could power a single building (we assume they're targeting office structures) for up to 40 years.

On the plus side, burying a nuclear reactor under your office building may be a big boon for productivity. If we were sitting on top a potential Chernobyl, we know we'd be working to get home as fast as humanly possible. [From: Guardian]

Tags: energy, home, household, killer gadgets, KillerGadgets, nuclear, nuclear power, NuclearPower, security