Nuclear power for Cayman

At the moment, Cayman, other islands, and remote areas that are dependent on diesel generation are being strangled by the rising cost of oil.

All the signs point to a continuing and deepening world supply-demand crunch.

We all need a viable alternative to burning oil for power generation.

Finally, after many years of sitting on modular nuclear reactor designs for years, the world is starting to move toward building and marketing some of them.

A company called Hyperion Power Generation was formed recently at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. It is already funded and expects to start delivery of units beginning in 2012.

The units are about the size of a large bathtub and can generate 70 megawatts (thermal) or 25 megawatts (electrical) for seven to 10 years, and cost $25 to $30 million. They are self regulated, are clean burning, have no moving parts, and the amount of waste after seven years of operation can fit in a softball.

The self-regulation is provided by the laws of physics operating in the core, not by control rods or any other kind of neutron absorber. And rest assured, the laws of physics never change.

The company is taking orders now, for delivery in 2013. With our electrical load now nearing 100 megawatts, two or three of these units could supply CUC’s base load.

CUC’s existing diesel generators would only have to run to supply the peak load.

Twenty five megawatts for seven years is 1,533 million kilowatt-hours. A gallon of oil contains 45 kilowatt-hours (thermal) or about 16 kilowatt-hours when burned in a 35 per cent efficient diesel generator.

If $30 million can buy 1,533 million kilowatt-hours, the cost per kilowatt-hr is 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour and this is worst case. If the best case is assumed, the cost per kilowatt-hour drops to bout 1 cent per kilowatt-hr.

Of course, these costs do not include the capital cost of the steam generator and turbine-generator. But once installed, the cost of these is only to service the debt and some very small cost per kilowatt-hour for maintenance.

Given these numbers and the projections for oil prices, it is not too soon for CUC to negotiate a place in line for some of these units.

Gerry Miller