Toshiba Micro-Nuke: Real or Photoshop?

All the geeks are agog over the new fun-sized Toshiba Micro Nuclear reactor (shown on left) that Engadget says "details are slim" but "Toshiba's Micro Nuclear reactors are designed to power a single apartment building or city block, and measure a mere 20-feet by 6-feet. The 200 kilowatt reactor is fully automatic and fail-safe, and is completely self-sustaining. It uses special liquid lithium-6 reservoirs instead of traditional control rods, and can last up to 40 years, making energy for about 5 cents per kilowatt hour." Geekologie says "The first unit is being installed in Japan in 2008 and if regulation allows (read: get f****g real) they'll be available in the U.S. in 2009"

We think it looks suspiciously like the 4S reactor we showed on TH two years ago, picture on right.

TreeHugger Meaghan covered a proposal to install one in Alaska and said at the time "the 4S reactor ("Super-Safe, Small, and Simple"--Wow! Genius marketing, right?!) will make it the tiniest reactor ever built, about the size of a large spruce tree. With an underground reactor core encased in concrete housing, this baby’s as safe from attack or theft as “a missle in its silo."

From our source at the time:

Toshiba calls its design the 4S reactor, for "super-safe, small and simple." It would be installed underground, and in case of cooling system failure, heat would be dissipated through the earth. There are no complicated control rods to move through the core to control the flow of neutrons that sustain the chain reaction; instead, the reactor uses reflector panels around the edge of the core. If the panels are removed, the density of neutrons becomes too low to sustain the chain reaction.

The design is described as inherently safe, but it does have one riskier feature: It uses liquid sodium, not water, to draw heat away from the core, so the heat can be used to make steam and then electricity.

Designers chose sodium so they could run the reactor about 200 degrees hotter than most power reactors, but still keep the coolant depressurized. (Water at that temperature would make steam at thousands of pounds of pressure a square inch.) The problem is that if sodium leaks, it burns."

We didn't think much of it at the time, and suspect that someone is playing photoshop games on Engadget now- a sodium cooled nuke in your basement is about as likely as a nuclear battery. ::TreeHugger

Tags: Alternative Energy | Nuclear Power