Friday, November 28, 2008

Hyperion Poll

Rod Adams' post on Hyperion's claims about nuclear waste production from their Hyperion Power Module has elicited a very interesting series of responses, with several commenters casting serious doubt not only on the volume of fission products produced, but also on the viability of the entire Hyperion concept. I recommend that anyone interested in the Hyperion read the thread. In particular, there is concern that the finely divided hydride fuel used in the Hyperion has never been tested, and that Hyperion has not put out any kind of timetable for doing this despite their ambitious commercialization plans. I'm not sure if it's true that finely divided hydride fuel has never been tested; it's an elegant idea, and it's possible that the Soviets looked into it, so I'm going to do my small part by checking the Russian literature for any exploration of the concept. Personally, I'm choosing to be optimistic that Hyperion has some kind of good answer to the concerns that are being raised about issues like fuel testing, but the company needs to provide some kind of explanation of how they are expecting to demonstrate their technology. In order to gauge the sentiment of this blog's readership on the Hyperion issue, I have created a poll. Also, I'd like to hear about readers' concerns about the Hyperion concept, so please comment if you have any insights or strong feelings on the matter.


Finrod said...

I'm not technically qualified to judge whether or not powdered uranium hydride fuel can be safely deployed. The Hyperion concept has been publicised for months now, so I find it a bit suprising that with all the talented commenters in the pro-nuclear strata of the blogosphere, the fuel safety issue is only now being explored. For my part, I seem to recall that Hyperion initially considered their design to be a HEAT SOURCE to be deployed underground where intense subterranean heat was deemed desirable, such as tar deposit oil-extraction sites. Perhaps this had something to do with Hyperion's evaluation of the safety factors involved? It seems to me that it's mainly speculation external to the company which has touted Hyperion power modules as a source of electrical power for the grid, which is not what the unit was initially designed for.

Any thoughts?

DV8 2XL said...

I am definitely getting more and more sceptical of this project the closer I look at it.

What I learned today hasn't helped. Hyperion claims to have sold six reactors to the TES Group of Romania. TES, once you get past the bombast on the front page of their website, seems to be involved only in marketing an industrial lighting controller, which they build from of the shelf components. I am sure it's a very good product, but this hardly makes them a company that would have the assets or the expertise to buy and operate even a simple nuclear reactor.

Now it would seem that upon being asked by the Romanian news agency NewsIn , the National Committee for Nuclear Control, which is the government body that would be responsible for approving an installation, stated that: “ They did not receive any notification regarding the authorization of mini nuclear plant and have no knowledge of the project.” This does not look good, and I can’t believe that Hyperion’s principals are so naïve that they would not have considered the issues of site licences, or the capacity of a customer to pay, before accepting a letter of intent. In other words they must have known it was worthless from the outset.

When you combine this with some very pertinent outstanding technical questions, and no indication that an effort is being made to answer them, it doesn’t look good. It’s about time Hyperion stopped handing out breathless press releases and start to show that there is something more to this system than a lot of hype.

DV8 2XL said...

Here is something else to consider. A detailed search shows that no one in their management has ANY experience in nuclear power, commercial power, or are even engineers. They all however, have marketing backgrounds.

Finrod, I quote John Deal, the company's chief executive. He said: “Our goal is to produce power and electricity anywhere in the world for less than ten cents per kilowatt hour."

I would seem that they are not just looking at process heat.

Sovietologist said...

DV8, these are valid concerns and Hyperion needs to answer for them somehow. Do you agree with Anonymous Commenter on the Atomic Insights thread regarding the physical feasibility of a small reactor using finely divided hydride fuel (that is, that the concept is actually unworkable?) Or do you think that the problem has to do with the Hyperion company and their business plans and not the Hyperion idea?

DV8 2XL said...

Is the concept is actually unworkable? On paper it is quite workable, there has never been any question of that, however anyone with an engineering or project management background will tell you that this means next to nothing. You need to test and validate all of the theory and build prototypes and test them before you have a product. This goes for just about any major industrial device, and even more so if it is a nuclear system. So while I think this is an idea worth pursuing, it is not a marketable product by any means at this point in time.

As for the issue of the powdered fuel not performing as expected, that is at this juncture, the key unanswered technical question, and one that cannot be answered without the sort of research that would have to be done at existing reactors, and which would have come up on the radar by now, if it was being done, because there is no reason to hide it. At this point such research is conspicuous by its absence.

bw said...

Bob Libutti, VP engineering seems to be an engineer.

Pete Peterson, the chief scientist, developed the patents and designs at Los Alamos.

they do have staff which includes more engineers and scientists

the TES customer might respond to queries on their plans

DV8 2XL said...

My remarks were based on the people they list on their so-called 'primary team'. Libutti. for example does hold an engineering BSc., but is described as having held executive marketing and executive product development positions, both of which are sales oriented jobs. Deal, the CEO has a background in geospatial sciences, (essentially map-making) but has spent his career as a start-up specialist.

It goes on: the V.P. is an public relations and marketing specialist with degrees in journalism, the Product Manager is an a past executive in the publishing industry, and a specialist in digital rights management, and the Project Manager's bio claims great experience in the construction and energy sectors, again with an emphasis on marketing.

Pete Peterson is the real thing, but one wonders what exactly his day to day influence is on the direction of the company from his position of Inventor, and Chief Scientist.

Purple Mountain Ventures, the firm behind Hyperion are grand masters at hype, claiming several successful technology transfer start-ups, but a more detailed look shows that they are counting Hyperion and a few other ventures that have yet to make a profit among their successes. In fact only one of their companies could be called a financial success.

Also you have the wrong European firm linked to. It is not TAS the Czech company Hyperion is dealing with, but an unrelated firm, TAS of Romania.