From The Daily Yomiuri:
Toshiba Corp. has been developing a small nuclear reactor for mining oil sands at the request of a firm engaged in such mining projects in Alberta Province, Canada, and aims to begin operating the reactor by 2020, it has been learned.
The output of Toshiba's new small reactor will be 10,000 kilowatts to 50,000 kilowatts, about 1 percent-5 percent that of a regular nuclear reactor, according to the sources.
Steam generated in the reactor will be sent to strata located at a depth of about 300 meters, where oil sands are found, to turn the sand into slurry. The slurry will then be extracted from the strata using a separate pipe.
To ensure the reactor's safety, Toshiba reportedly plans to construct a nuclear reactor building underground, while the building itself will be equipped with an earthquake-absorbing structure.
This is hardly a new idea, and I've covered it a couple of times previously. For our current purposes, the most important bit is this passage out of a Rand Corporation study from several years back:
But Would Nukes Even Work
Nuclear power could be used to produce electricity, steam, and hydrogen for oil-sand
projects. However, in addition to concerns about radioactive-waste management and proliferation, there may be limitations on the use of nuclear power in the oil-sand industry. Oil-sand projects are generally dispersed, whereas nuclear plants generally provide a large amount of power at a single site. Piping steam over great distances would not be practical, 21 and electricity transmission would require significant infrastructure investments to reach many small, often remote oil-sand sites. H2 production via electrolysis today is expensive, and, again, there is no existing infrastructure for moving large amounts of H2 to remote oil-sand sites (NPC, 2007). At present, there is insufficient information to provide cost estimates if nuclear power were used in oil-sand projects.
So, what this implies, and what the pic from the Yomiuri story implies...