Radiant, a California-based business, has received financing to construct a one-megawatt nuclear micro-reactor that fits in a shipping container, can power 1,000 households, and uses helium instead of water as a coolant.
Radiant has raised US$1.2 million from angel investors to continue work on its reactors, which are specifically designed to be highly portable, quick to deploy, and effective wherever they're deployed; remote communities and disaster areas are early targets. Radiant was founded by ex-SpaceX engineers who decided the Mars colony power sources they were researching would have a bigger impact closer to home.
Another important market is the military; a few of these could power an entire military base in a remote area for four to eight years before running out of "advanced particle fuel," eliminating not only the emissions of current diesel generators, but also the need to bring in trucks full of fuel on a regular basis.
Those trucks will still have to run until the military abandons diesel in all of its vehicles, but they will be far less frequently, removing a huge risk for transport employees.
Radiant says its fuel "does not melt down, and withstands higher temperatures when compared to traditional nuclear fuels." Using helium as the coolant "greatly reduces corrosion, boiling and contamination risks," and the company says it's received provisional patents for ideas it's developed around refueling the reactors and efficiently transporting heat out of the reactor core.
Radiant joins a number of companies now working on compact nuclear reactors, and a smaller number focusing specifically on portable units, which would include the floating barges proposed for mass-manufacture by Seaborg. It'll be a while before we see one up and running, but a clean, convenient, low-cost, long-life alternative to diesel generators would be very welcome.