Why does NASA want to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon?

NASA and the US Department of Energy are waiting for the competent authorities to approve a proposal to build a solar power plant on the Moon and Mars, for future space exploration projects. First, they want to build a fission energy system on the surface of the Moon, then a system to aid space travel, the landing zone and the reactor. NASA wants a stable operating system by 2026 to back up upcoming projects.

Anthony Calomino, head of nuclear technology at NASA, says their plan is to develop a 10-kilowatt capacity surface power supply system; they want the system to prove its capabilities by the end of the decade. The energy facility will be produced and assembled on Earth, will only go to the Moon when it passes the rigorous testing and stable operation.

A NASA cartoon depicts the first fission reactor on the surface of the Moon.

The device will be attached to a device that lands on the surface of the Moon, spins a few times in orbit and then slowly lands on the surface. As soon as it hits the ground, the system can go into operation. It is expected that NASA will test it within a year, testing the ability of future astronauts to maintain the long-term maintenance of the Moon and Mars missions.

Once this technology is proved viable, future systems will be even larger scale and could be used on many longer missions, on both the Moon and Mars.“Mr. Calomino said. “With a total of four systems, each providing 10 kilowatts of electricity, they will provide enough power to operate front stations on the Moon or Mars.“.

NASA is collaborating with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a nuclear energy research agency, to realize a desire to put a fission reactor into space. Is this plan realistic with only 6 years of preparation, testing and implementation?

Steve Johnson, director of INL’s Space Nuclear Energy and Isotope Technology Division, replied, “Have“.

Why does NASA want to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon | Explore

Moon Surface captured by SpaceIL’s Beresheet.

We can leverage our years of experience in researching and developing advanced fuels, materials and space-scale commercial freight modes to reduce risk rates, to realize milestones. time 2026”Mr. Johnson said. “We really want to create innovations in the commercial nuclear power industry, ready to work with NASA and other aerospace agencies to take advantage of existing technologies.“.

Technology is paramount in this project: nuclear reactors, energy converters, radiators and space travel technology are essential pieces of the puzzle, Mr. Calomino said. get the whole picture.

How will the nuclear plant work?

As head of nuclear technology team Anthony Calomino said: “A less enriched form of nuclear fuel will power the core. The small reactor will generate heat, allowing the heat to go into the energy conversion system. This system will include engines designed to operate with heat from the reactor, not the internal combustion fuel. These engines convert heat into electrical energy that is transferred to astronauts’ devices on the Moon and Mars. Heat dissipation technology is also important in maintaining stable operating temperatures“.

Mr. Johnson said that in addition to research and development spanning decades, the infrastructure we have will be enough to create nuclear reactors, energy converters, radiators and space travel technology on time 2026.

The cooperation between INL and the Ministry of Energy will greatly accelerate the project progress. INL will take responsibility for contracting related to the lunar surface fission systems, including the reactor and protective barrier, the energy conversion system, the radiator system, the control system. electrical energy control and coordination. It is expected that the lunar reactor will have a lifespan of 10 years, with a capacity of 10 kilowatts, enough to supply 5-8 large households.

Why does NASA want to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon | Explore

Nuclear power plant in Belgium.

Mr. Calomino said their lab has raised requests for project information in order to draw the attention of industries and is eager to receive more optimal design. Up to now, they have received a total of 22 responses from companies large and small, all from aerospace, nuclear energy and energy transformation.

They do not publish the names of the above companies, just say that they are all highly specialized, providing the companies essential to this project. Calimino added about the cooperation plan between NASA and the Department of Energy to find a business that can provide efficient nuclear fission technology. It is not clear how much this contract is worth.

Are extraterrestrial reactors safe enough?

To the vast majority of the masses, this idea sounds very risky. But in the opinion of Andre Crabtree, founder of the center for recruiting human resources for the nuclear energy industry, about the worries of a “space nuclear reactor”, the factor of safety is not on that list .

Nuclear energy has been sent to space many times“Mr. Crabtree said. “Atomic energy has been on the Moon since November 1969, when the Apollo 12 successfully maintained a steady state under a variety of temperature conditions. It was Apollo 12 that marked the first time the nuclear power system worked on the Moon“.

You also don’t need to worry about the pollution factor. Nearly all of the human Universe expedition missions have ever carried out using radioactive isotope thermoelectric generators, whose power source is the isotope Plutonium-238 – which is still known as “the pack horse of the space show“. Plutonium-238 shoots radiation at least 250 times faster than the plutonium used in making a nuclear bomb. When atoms decay, they release alpha particles – small clusters of nuclear particles – with enormous amounts of energy. That is the source of heat and energy to operate the devices on the planet’s surface survey ships as well as the planetary probes from in orbit.

Why does NASA want to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon | Explore

A particle of Plutonium-238 isotope reddens due to its own heat.

Shel Horowitz, an expert in economic factors related to clean energy, said that there is no need to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon. With the cost of clean energy from the Sun, wind and small-scale hydropower systems low, we don’t need a complex system like nuclear power.

Mr. Calomino replied that this fission system project is not much different from the renewable energy sources that Horowitz raised. There will be future trials that will require nuclear power, when renewables cannot be used under specific conditions. When exploring dark areas, areas covered by dust and smoke, meteorite craters are covered with black shadows all year round, nuclear energy will play its part.

Still others disagree with the extraterrestrial nuclear power project, arguing the risk is too great. Calomino emphasized NASA’s prudence throughout the research and development of the project, and that the project has been and is preparing to be approved due to its meeting the necessary safety standards. Besides, the oven will not operate until it settles on the surface of the moon.

Even in the next 10 years, NASA has plans for the nuclear reactor to “retire” safely. “At the end of life, the system will turn off by itself, the radiation level will decrease gradually to a safe level, allowing human access and handling. The system will be returned to storage, will not cause harm to the crew and the environmentg “.

Why does NASA want to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon | Explore

The future illustration of the Mars base.

According to Professor Jose Morey, a medical expert working at Liberty BioSecurity, a nuclear plant accident on the Moon does not affect the Earth much, thanks to the atmosphere that protects Mother Earth from pictures. Bad radiation comes from outer space.

Although the new project is in its early stages, it opens up opportunities for the nuclear energy industry to explore new horizons. Nuclear technology itself remains controversial, but Professor Morey believes in strong foundations that do not push America’s space exploration efforts forward.

Nuclear energy has always existed in a clean and extremely efficient form“, Professor Morey said. “In fact, it will be a key factor in space exploration and, more importantly, allowing humanity to become an interplanetary species. The new dawn of space exploration will re-unleash the potential of the nuclear energy industry until we find another source of even more clean and efficient energy.“.

Refer to CNBC,

[ Æsir Tales ]
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