This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


Hyperion to build small modular reactor at Savannah River

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

  • Member since 2018
  • 1,553 items added with 1,157,966 views
  • Sep 11, 2010

The project is a partnership between a Department of Energy national laboratory and an entrepreneurial start-up financed with venture capital

Hyperion_Modular_Reactor2 Small modular reactor (SMR) start-up vendor Hyperion Power Generation has agreed to build a prototype mini-nuclear reactor at a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory Platts reported Sept 9. (See also WJBF TV video report)

The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions to build the first demonstration reactor at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. It represents a huge leap forward for Hyperion. Until this announcement, some in the nuclear industry held a skeptical view of its prospects for success.

The Aiken, SC, Standard reported that Garry Flowers, president and chief executive office of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said SRS is the ideal place to develop and demonstrate the technology.

“This is one of the first in a series of steps that can put this region in an active role toward transforming America’s energy future,” Flowers said. “Small and modular reactors can become the primary base of new, clean power for the world.”

John R. Deal, chief executive officer and co-founder of Hyperion, said, “First, though, we have to show how and where it can work, and the Savannah River Site is an excellent demonstration site.”

Hyperion is developing a 25-MW fast reactor that uses uranium nitride fuel and lead bismuth (liquid metal) coolant. SRS officials hope to use the reactor to produce hydrogen which in turn will be used to make biofuels. Other applications include reliable power for military bases.

Cost estimate to be determined

raising_capitalThe Augusta Chronicle reported that Mike Navetta, manager of energy park initiatives for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said officials hope to have the reactor built and operational by 2020. He estimated the cost at $100-150 million most of which would be raised from private investors.

However, Deborah Blackwell, a spokesperson for Hyperion, told Platts the Hyperion prototype will cost just $50 million or $2,000/Kw. She also said the money would be raised from investors and not come from the government. She told Plats that she is “confident” the company will secure the funding, but declined to give Platts more details.

Navetta told the Augusta Chronicle a larger reactor would $1 billion He said cost savings will be realized because of existing materials and facilities at Savannah River Site.

SRS to be demonstration site for multiple SMRs?

rose colored glassesIs SRS looking at the future of SMRs through rose colored glasses? Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is reportedly talking with five or six other companies about building prototypes at the complex. The plan is for manufacturers of small reactors to come there and prove their technologies actually work. No one from SRS said anything about federal money being used to pay for construction of the prototypes or the testing process.

With regard to Hyperion’s project, Pete Knollmeyer, vice president for strategic planning at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said at the press conference, the design and licensing processes will take several years each and construction could take an additional three to four years.

This is an optimistic outlook. Hyperion hasn’t yet submitted its reactor design to the NRC for a safety review. The firm would have to clear that hurdle and also get a license from the regulatory agency to build a reactor at SRS or anywhere else.

The NRC is working to come up the learning curve on how to license SMRs that are not based on mature light water reactor (LWR) designs. By its own assessment, the agency still has a way to go to be able to do it. There are a raft of licensing issues it has to work through.

The NRC is getting lots of advice from the Nuclear Energy Institute and the American Nuclear Society. The dialog between the agency and the industry is described by one expert as “a kabuki dance” with all the intricacies that come with this idiomatic metaphor.

On the other hand, Hyperion’s test stand at SRS could help push the reactor vendor to the head of the line for safety review and licensing. The reason is that with a visible prototype project, it could be the first fast reactor SMR to attract paying customers. This is always a litmus test for the NRC. Hyperion has a chance to pass it if it can raise investor funds for the SRS project.

Idaho lab has much bigger fish to fry

flounderDOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is developed a 300 MW high temperature gas cooled fast SMR called the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. It is expected to start construction by the end of this decade.

While no financing plan has been announced for the Idaho project, one plausible scenario is for the first unit to be built, in a cost sharing agreement with the government, at a customer site to supply process heat for the petrochemical industry. At $4,500/Kw, a 300 MW plant could cost $1.35 billion.

In the current deficit reduction climate for federal spending, crtiics say funding for a project of this size will take some real heavy lifting. Capital commitments of this kind take years to develop so it doesn’t make sense to discount the Idaho project based on current economic conditions. Having an industry partner as a customer could make a difference.


Dan Yurman's picture
Thank Dan for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
David Lewis's picture
David Lewis on Sep 21, 2010

The direct subsidy that will be paid to the developers of the Blythe Solar project exceeds $4800 per average available kw, and that is if you accept that the entire project comes in at the lowest reported figure of $4 billion, as opposed to what Reuters is reporting, i.e. $6 billion. 

I couldn’t post an article with a title “What’s cheaper than solar subsidies?  Give nuclear reactors away for free”, as the powers that be at The Energy Collective deemed that it was “too inflammatory” to compare the cost of different low carbon power technologies.  Oh, and they also mentioned that The Energy Collective gets too many pro nuclear articles to just publish them all.

Did you have anything to do with this?


Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »