Your Own Little Meltdown
In his Foundation series, Isaac Asimov reveals his love for tiny nuclear reactors — they power everything, from guns to personal shields to costume jewellery. In the present, however, we see two huge towers and an accident waiting to happen. Somewhere in between, you’ll find the upcoming Hyperion Hybride Reactor.
Built by the Arizona-based Hyperion, the Hybride reactor is about the size of a Jacuzzi, is completely sealed, is practically maintenance-free, has no moving parts, and will power up to 20,000 homes. Much though we like the picture of a glowy, throbbing reactor in the middle of our localities, this is not to be. The Hybride will be buried underground, and will need to be dug up every seven years or so for refuelling.
The company has already received a hundred orders from various industries and developing countries, and there’s already a six-year waiting list. And all this for something that’s still five years away.
Toshiba is working on its own miniature nuclear reactor as well — the 4S (super-safe, small and simple), which will be ready for its first field test in 2012. It’ll be smaller than the Hybride, and will last 30-40 years without refuelling.
The possibilities for something like this in India are wonderful: no longer will our small cities and villages have to suffer power outages so that the big cities keep ticking. They could become self-contained units, independent of the power grid. In countries worse off than ours, these reactors could go where no power source has ever gone before. Most importantly, it’ll all be clean power — right now, nuclear power has almost no carbon footprint. There is, however, the matter of getting organisations like Greenpeace to stop ruining its good name.