FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Alaska Town Considers Its Own Nuclear Power Plant

Last week we repoted on the town of Mink, Louisiana, which got its very first telephone installations. Now another remote US town is considering a technological leap of a very different sort.

The town of Galena, Alaska, depends on expensive diesel fuel for its electricity. Now, the town is considering a less costly alternative: a miniature nuclear power plant.

Fueling the town is expensive not only because diesel fuel must be shipped long distances during the warm weather, but because the town experiences up to 20 hours of darkness a day and frequent subzero temperatures. In response, Toshiba is offering to make Galena a test bed for its "microreactor" that is virtually maintenance-free and generates 10 megawatts of electricity. The reactor would operate underground and could run for up to 30 years without refueling.

Most appealing of all to Galena residents, the cost of electricity from the microreactor would be 10 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly a third of what they are currently paying.

Assuming the project goes on schedule -- and there is opposition to it, especially from the local Native American tribes -- the reactor would be operational by 2010. If successful, the reactor could bring economical energy to remote communities throughout the world.

Sources: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (reprinted from the New York Times), Smart Mobs