[ExI] Are mini nuclear power stations the way forward?

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Wed Mar 16 14:04:02 UTC 2011

On Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 1:40 PM, Richard Loosemore  wrote:
> I fear this is not a good alternative.  Scientific American, among others,
> have already pointed out that these things could just be cracked open and
> used as christmas presents for wannabe terrorists.

This is one of the obvious problems to be included in the risk analysis.

Hyperion’s Mr Deal insists that neither a rocket-propelled grenade nor
a tank round could smash a small reactor. Small reactors can be
shielded by a heavy layer of concrete and buried, in effect making
them safer than big ones, whose protective concrete domes can only be
so thick, lest they collapse under their own weight.

I think it might also be considered a rather risky activity to smash
into a nuclear reactor. :)

There is also a proposed design which (if it works) avoids the nuclear
proliferation problem.
TerraPower, an American firm backed by Bill Gates, thinks it has the
solution. It is working with Toshiba to design a small reactor based
on a “travelling wave” design. Once kick-started with a tiny amount of
enriched uranium, it would run for decades on non-enriched, depleted
uranium, a widely available material. This will be possible because
the nuclear reaction, eating its way through the core at the rate of
about one centimetre a year, would gradually convert the depleted
uranium into fissionable plutonium—in effect “breeding” high-grade
fuel and then consuming it.


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