In the 1950s, when the U.S. government first approved the creation of nuclear plants for generating electricity, some Americans fantasized about a future in which small, personal nuclear reactors would be commonplace gadgets. In 1955, Robert E. Ferry, general manager of the Institute of Boiler and Radiator Manufacturers, gave a speech in which he predicted that individual homes would be heated and cooled by small reactors within three to six years.
Although that hasn't happened nearly 60 years later, there was some movement to create "mini-reactors" that might power small communities or even homes. As recently as 2008, company Hyperion Power Generation (now Gen4 Energy) was claiming that it had developed nuclear power plans "smaller than a garden shed" that could power 20,000 homes and would be on sale by 2013 [source: Vidal and Rosen]. However, 2013 hit, and still no progress on this nuclear sunset.