Radiant, a startup founded by a team of ex-SpaceX engineers, is currently developing a low cost and portable nuclear microreactor. The aim of this project is to develop the first zero-emission portable power source able to operate in different scenarios, providing an affordable source of electricity and heat to remote communities, disaster areas, military camps, and bases. Due to its simple and straightforward installation, the portable unit could also be deployed in crowded areas, providing the inhabitants with a variety of advantages.
With headquarters in California, Radiant secured last year $1.2 million in funding from investors. The funding was provided to aid in the development of the company’s affordable, transportable nuclear microreactors, which offer an alternative to fossil fuels for both industrial and commercial uses.
The project, which is currently in a phase close to the release of a final prototype, can provide a power exceeding 1 MegaWatt, while the operational autonomy is also very high, considering that a single micro reactor can operate continuously for 8 years. That means a single microreactor would be sufficient to meet the electricity needs of 1000 housing units on a period of 8 years. Another significant feature of this system is its scalability, meaning with that the ability to connect multiple units in parallel to provide the power level required by the specific application.
Compact size and portability are other relevant key factors of the nuclear microreactor. Since Radiant’s nuclear microreactor has been designed to fit within a cargo container and is portable by air, ship, and land, it will be able to supply affordable energy to areas where access to renewable sources is difficult. As a result, isolated or remote communities will be able to lessen their reliance on fossil fuels, which will benefit both the environment and the people. This microreactor will provide sustainable energy for industrial and commercial usage in place of fossil fuels.
An advanced design
An important difference compared to traditional nuclear reactors is that the microreactor developed by Radiant utilizes an advanced, non-melting, particulate fuel that can withstand higher temperatures than conventional nuclear fuels. The meltdown-proof fuel, a TRI-structural ISOtropic particle (TRISO), allows Radiant’s microreactor to be a safe, reliable, and affordable system.
Combining advanced technologies typical of the aerospace and nuclear sectors, Radiant’s engineering team is developing a product that will eliminate not only the harmful emissions produced by current fossil fuel generators, but also the frequent refueling required by electric field generators.
Safety and reliability are two key factors that have driven the development of this project. Besides providing many layers of safety, the microreactor enables microgrids by remote monitoring, centralized fueling, and maintenance with no long-term effects.
Kaleidos, this is the name of 1.2 MW microreactor, has been designed using the state-of-the-art modeling and development tools, such as fusion reactor digital twins, aerospace drivers and hardware in the loop simulator.
The choice of coolant
Additionally, the dangers of corrosion, boiling, and contamination associated with more conventional water coolants are greatly diminished by the usage of helium coolant. Helium has distinct benefits over other gases as a reactor coolant due to its high thermal conductivity, specific heat, and chemical inertness.
Over water, helium has a number of benefits. Helium’s ability to sustain temperatures as high as required and be limited only by the solid materials it is contained in is its most crucial property for fusion. Additionally, due to its great temperature tolerance, it is more effective than water or steam at converting thermal energy into electricity.
As one of the few companies to work on portable nuclear reactors and liquid nuclear power plants, Radiant has announced it has received provisional patents for its concepts for refueling the reactors and effectively moving heat away from the reactor core.
The team is currently working on a practical demonstration of Kaleidos’ capabilities, that will take place in the next few years.