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Mars Moon Power Science

Developing Nuclear Power Plant Tech For the Moon and Mars 273

With his first accepted Slashdot submission, Zandamesh sends this excerpt from ZDNet: "On earth, nuclear reactors are under attack because of concerns over damage caused by natural disasters. In space, however, nuclear technology may get a new lease on life. Plans for the first nuclear power plant for the production of electricity to be used by manned or unmanned bases on the Moon, Mars and other planets have been unveiled at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. 'The reactor itself may be about 1 ½ feet wide by 2 ½ feet high, about the size of a carry-on suitcase. There are no cooling towers. ... The team is scheduled to build a technology demonstration unit in 2012."
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Developing Nuclear Power Plant Tech For the Moon and Mars

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  • Protesters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:20AM (#37241188) Journal

    While possibly a good idea, be prepared for the protesters. Specifically the group that complains every time a rocket blasts off carrying fissile material. What if it explodes on launch?

    Also, expect a few wingnuts who complain about ruining the pristine landscape of the moon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:34AM (#37241366)

    not when solar energy on the Moon is a readily available alternative.

    Maybe for Earth, but solar energy is not viable for long-term use on a world in which night lasts for two weeks.

    Sending a bunch of solar cells to the moon is easy. It's launching the batteries that's the dealbreaker at current launch costs. If you need lots of baseline power in a small package, nuclear's the only viable tech.

    Ditto for Mars - not just because it's further away, but because soft-landing a lot of mass on Mars is arguably more difficult than landing on the Moon. Not just due to gravity, but Mars' atmosphere is dense enough to burn up a spacecraft, but not dense enough to avoid the requirement for colossal parachutes or really fancy retro-rocket landing systems.

  • Re:Protesters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:37AM (#37241406) Journal

    A more accurate link would have been this [].

    I'm not arguing for complete negligence, but rather that this is an engineering issue that can be solved.

  • by RockClimbingFool ( 692426 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:39AM (#37241420)

    Solar power is hardly "readily available" on the moon, unless Bob's Discount Solar Panels has relocated their manufacturing complex on the moon.

    Solar panels have weight. I am going to guess that the kilowatts per pound for solar doesn't come anywhere near nuclear.

    Solar panels degrade over time. You then have to launch all new panels. The reactor mass for nuclear would stay on the moon, you just send up more fuel.

    You're concerned about losing it on launch? First, launch it over the ocean, like we do for pretty all US launches. Second, these reactors are pretty small. You can put launch abort systems on them. You can encase it in a lot of shielding. More than enough to survive a ballistic ocean crash.

    Even if you do lose the thing, it is a small reactor. It will have a limited amount of fissionable material. You could dump it in the ocean and it would affect no one.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:58AM (#37241692)

    In order to get a reactor to the moon you have to launch it on a rocket, and rockets do not have a really great safety record.

    The reactor doesn't start up until it's in place, so it's relatively safe until then. Plus if the launcher fails after the first minute or so it ends up at the bottom of the ocean.

    The Russians have put reactors into space before, and I believe NASA did launch one before they settled on RTG and solar.

  • Re:Protesters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @11:11AM (#37241844) Journal

    I'd prefer the moon without nuclear contamination

    This makes about as much sense as standing next to the mouth of a volcano and complaining that your neighbour's barbecue is making you too hot.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead