Nuclear technology from Mars returns to Earth
Remote military and commercial installations often depend on environmentally friendly and polluting fuels such as diesel to create the electrical power they need to keep going.
And in some parts of the world, dependence on diesel, solar and wind power is either unavailable, impractical or untenable, experts say.
What if you had a reliable, safe, and portable power supply that wouldn’t need to be refueled for 4-8 years?
Thanks to aerospace technologies and software developments that have taken place over the past 20 years, there is now another option.
A team of former SpaceX engineers are developing the “world’s first portable zero-emission power source” that can bring electricity to remote areas and also enables rapid installation of new units in populated areas, the nuclear power is becoming portable in the form of relatively light and economical microreactors, Interesting Engineering reported.
It’s true, nuclear power is becoming portable in the form of relatively light and cost-effective microreactors.
Last year, the team secured $ 1.2 million in funding from investors for its startup Radiant to help it develop its portable nuclear microreactors, which are intended for commercial and military applications.
Radiant’s technology under development brings a whole new dimension of portability to the once dreaded nuclear reactor, the statement said.
Their microreactor, which is still in the prototype phase, produces more than 1 MW, which Radiant says is enough to power around 1,000 homes for eight years.
Designed to fit in a shipping container, it can be easily transported by air, sea and road, meaning it will bring affordable energy to communities without easy access to renewable energy, allowing them to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels .
Radiant founder and CEO Doug Bernauer is a former SpaceX engineer who worked on developing power sources for a future Martian colony during his time at the private space company.
During his research on microreactors for Mars, he saw an opportunity to develop a flexible and affordable energy source here on Earth, which led him to found Radiant with two other SpaceX engineers.
âThe nuclear industry can benefit greatly from aerospace technologies and software developments that have taken place over the past 20 years and that have not made their way to nuclear,â Bernauer said in an interview with Power Magazine.
âMany of the microreactors under development are stationary. Nobody has any [commercial] system again, so there’s kind of a race to be the first.
Radiant announced last year that it had received two provisional patents for its portable nuclear reactor technology.
One of them was for a technology that reduces the cost and time required to recharge their reactor, while the other improves the efficiency of heat transfer from the reactor core.
The microreactor will use advanced particulate fuel that does not melt – a crucial factor for safe operation – and is able to withstand higher temperatures than traditional nuclear fuels.
Helium coolant, on the other hand, reduces the risk of corrosion and contamination associated with traditional water coolant. Radiant has signed a contract with Battelle Energy Alliance to test its portable microreactor technology at its Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
The use of microreactors to expand distributed power generation is part of a trend to provide power to remote areas, as well as military bases and commercial operations that need access to electricity but are far from the traditional network.
âCost optimization, reduced peak power factorâ¦ it’s all part of our design,â Bernauer told Power, noting that the microreactor’s portability provides âfreedom and optimization. One of the advantages of the portable system is that it is so small that we can operate it on its own.
Not only is the portable microreactor better for the environment, it is also more convenient because it does not rely on constant fuel shipments. Instead, the clean fuel used for Radiant’s microreactors can last over 4 years.
There are many remote places around the world that require portable power, such as Arctic villages and remote military bases.
These locations currently depend on generators powered by fossil fuels, which is not only bad for the environment, but also logistically difficult, as the generators require constant shipments of fuel on rural roads.
In the military, transporting fuel can be dangerous: According to an October 2018 US Army report titled “Mobile Nuclear Power Plants For Ground Operations,” about half of the 36,000 casualties during the nine-month period. years during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom2 following hostile attacks on land transport missions.
Bernauer said Radiant was operating under the auspices of the US Department of Energy during testing and viewed the Department of Defense (DOD) as its primary market as the DOD seeks a way to provide electricity to military bases in areas where access to electricity is not available.
DOD, like other companies, is also looking for ways to reduce or eliminate the use of diesel and other fuels to provide electricity in remote areas.
âWe are aiming for 72 hours between its installation on site and its full power generation capacity,â Bernauer told Power.
He said the unit could be moved to a new location “after waiting just a week.” It is a stand-alone system once you have accessed your site. The useful life is four to eight years, and that of course depends on the demand. It can synchronize with other units and with the network as well.
Bernauer said the portability of Radiant’s microreactor is key to its deployment, unlike small modular reactors that can be designed specifically to scale.
âWe can do a modular setup, but we’re more interested in keeping it portable,â he said.
An investor in the company said the engineering and aerospace background of the Radiant team was an important aspect of their decision to support the effort.
âRadiant’s innovative and ambitious team has SpaceX’s expertise as well as impressive credentials in the nuclear industry,â said investor Tom McInerney. âThey have what it takes to bring new clean energy solutions to market, and I’m excited to be a part of their journey. “
âClean and safe nuclear power – which is now embraced by both political parties in the United States – is the best alternative to fossil fuels in many environments,â Bernauer said.
âOur team’s combined expertise in nuclear technology, rapid product iteration and the commercialization of complex technologies gives us a huge competitive advantage in this market, and we are grateful to our investors as well as our partners such as Idaho National. Laboratory that help us get to our first prototype.
Sources: Interesting Engineering, Power Magazine, Global Newswire