Nuclear Reactors the Size of a Hot Tub

Nicolas Loris /

This could bring a whole new meaning to the “Not in My Back Yard” argument. Hyperion Power Generation, Inc. is looking to commercialize small, nuclear reactors for remote locations as soon as 2013. The reactors, developed at the reputable Las Alamos National Laboratory, are the size of a hot tub and buried under ground; it is impossible for them to melt down or be broken down into weapons. Furthermore, the amount of nuclear waste one of these reactors produces after about 5 years is about the size of a softball and could be reprocessed for more energy.

And how much electricity do these “hot tubs” pump out? Enough to power 20,000 average-sized homes. Not bad.

Are they realistic? Altira Group LLC, a venture capitalist firm that funds energy technologies, sure seems to think so. Peter Edwards, partner at Altira and board member of Hyperion Power Generation said,

We look to partner with companies who are developing transformative technology to meet increasing global demand. HPG’s technology will have a prominent role in the energy world of the future, providing a safe, compact, near-zero-emission, waste-efficient source for thermal and electrical energy.”

Toshiba has some stake in this game, as well. They’ve been working on a 20 feet by 6 feet reactor that would produce electricity at about half the price of regular grid electricity. They could become commercially viable in Japan in 2008, and Toshiba hopes to expand to Europe and the U.S. in 2009.

This is a perfect example of why we can’t move forward with centrally planned energy policy. Innovation and the market will develop unforeseen means to meet energy demands that would be most likely be restricted by the tunnel vision of a central planner.