Hyperion Power Generation wants to bring its mini nuclear reactors to military bases and off-grid communities – probably far away from you – and it is looking for up to $10 million to do it.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory spinoff has been getting attention with its promise of small, cheap and safe nuclear power. Its power modules, which the company says meet international non-proliferation criteria, are expected to generate about 27 megawatts of electricity – enough to power up to 20,000 homes – at a cost of $25 million.
By 2013, Hyperieon wants to begin delivering its power modules to customers around the world, Deborah Deal Blackwell, vice president of licensing and public policy for the Santa Fe, N.M.-based company, told an audience at Greentech Media's Greentech Innovations: End-to-End Electricity conference in New York this week.
Hyperion raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding in April from Altira Group LLC (see Startups Undeterred Despite Weak Economy). Now the company is seeking $5 million to $10 million in a second round it hopes to close by year's end, Blackwell said.
Hyperion's power modules are fueled by uranium hydride, a non-weapons-grade form of uranium, she said. With no moving parts, they're more like a nuclear battery than a traditional nuclear power plant.
The modules' temperatures are controlled not through cooling rods or water, but through the self-regulating properties of the fuel itself, which breaks into hydrogen and metal at about 800 degrees Celsius and recombines when the temperature drops below that level, she said.
That means they're safe from any kind of Chernobyl-style meltdowns, Blackwell said. Plus, they will be sealed at the factory and buried underground at the sites where they're deployed, limiting any tampering from would-be terrorists, she said.
After seven to 10 years, Hyperion will dig up the module and bring it back to its manufacturing site, refueling it for reuse and keeping the spent fuel and any radioactive or deteriorated parts for itself, she said. The uranium hydride fuel makes up about 45 percent of the module's total cost.
All these features differentiate Hyperion from others working to bring mini nuclear reactors to market, since those other plans are based on scaled-down, light-water reactors rather than on Hyperion's uranium hydride design, Blackwell said.
Japanese nuclear reactor developer Toshiba Corp. has laid out plans for a 30-megawatt mini-reactor, to be called the 4S. Last year, Toshiba said it would seek approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to install one in the remote Alaskan town of Galena.
Hyperion is also seeking approval from the NRC for its power module design, and wants permission to build about 4,000 of them, Blackwell said. TES Group, an investment company focused on the energy sector in Central Eastern Europe, has already signed a letter of intent to buy up to six modules, she said.
Hyperion hopes to have a complete power module system built by next year, she said.