N.A.S.A. Designs Suitcase Sized Nuclear Reactor For Moon!?

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PostMon Aug 29, 2011 11:17 pm » by Slamgunshark

Miniature Nuclear Reactor to Power Mars and Moon Colonies

http://www.innovationnewsdaily.com/mina ... nasa-2221/


Humans might not be living on Mars or the moon anytime soon, but scientists might have just overcome one major hurdle on the route to interstellar habitation: electricity.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory have designed a suitcase-sized nuclear plant that can power up to eight normal-sized homes. Thanks to its size and durability, the plant can provide fission power not only on Earth, but on the moon, on Mars, or any other place NASA requires a power generator.

While most nuclear power plants generate hundreds or thousands of megawatts of electricity, this portable generator would create only 40 kilowatts. This smaller size is ideal for the type of conditions seen in space, said James Werner, lead researcher on the project.

"Just taking it down to that size has a lot of significant differences," Werner told InnovationNewsDaily.

The generator is more flexible and can be placed in craters or caves on uninhabited planets, for example. It is also exponentially less heavy than standard nuclear power plants, which Werner said is essential for a generator to work properly in space.

NASA has envisioned several potential applications for the new power plants. They could power oxygen or hydrogen generators. They could also serve as charging devices for either manned or unmanned electric scouting vehicles.

The team plans to build a physical demonstration unit for the plant and test out its capabilities next year.

Astronauts currently use solar cells — which convert light into energy — to power their crafts and devices. However, light sources might not be consistent or reliable in outer space. This nuclear power plant could generate a larger, and far more dependable, supply of electricity.

Nuclear power has been a bit of a controversial issue here on Earth thanks to several overheating accidents that have led to catastrophic disasters, such as the infamous Chernobyl meltdown. However, those incidents wouldn't pose a threat to astronauts using this portable reactor, Werner said.

"There would be no danger of meltdown," Werner said. "Because of the low power level, it's very safe. If we did have a situation where the power failed, the reactor itself would just shut down."

Though NASA has ended its space shuttle program, Werner isn't worried about the shutdown affecting this program, pointing out that the power plant would use an entirely different launch vehicle. He's optimistic that once the plant is complete, NASA would allow the team to send it out into space and see what happens.

"I hope that someday we get a chance to actually put into hardware on a flight," Werner said. "That'd be a big day for everybody."

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PostMon Aug 29, 2011 11:21 pm » by Smokeydog

hang on a minute dont some off the satelites hubble etc and the one thats f*cked off as far as it can go run on nuclear power meaning that a small enough size already existed?

When people are sat on something you want you make them an enemy

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PostMon Aug 29, 2011 11:23 pm » by Lifexp

so why do we not have these in our homes??? No chance of a meltdown constant power??

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PostMon Aug 29, 2011 11:26 pm » by Slamgunshark

Another interesting read.

Are they sure that the USDE in Idaho just "invented" this object and it had or has no secondary purpose?

Suitcase nuke


A suitcase nuke is a tactical nuclear weapon which uses, or is portable enough that it could use, a suitcase as its delivery method. Synonyms include suitcase bomb, backpack nuke, mini-nuke, pocket nuke and snuke.

Thus far, only the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation are known to have possessed nuclear weapons programs developed and funded well enough to manufacture miniaturized nuclear weapons. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have acknowledged producing nuclear weapons small enough to be carried in specially-designed backpacks during the Cold War, but neither have ever made public the existence or development of weapons small enough to fit into a normal-sized suitcase or briefcase. It has also been reported that Israel has produced nuclear warheads small enough to fit into a suitcase.


http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Story? ... 473&page=1

The lightest nuclear warhead ever acknowledged to have been manufactured by the U.S. is the W54, which was used in both the Davy Crockett 120 mm recoilless rifle–launched warhead, and the backpack-carried version called the Mk-54 SADM (Special Atomic Demolition Munition). The bare warhead package was an 11 in by 16 in (28 cm by 41 cm) cylinder that weighed 51 lbs (23 kg). It was, however, small enough to fit in a footlocker-sized container.

In 1994 the United States Congress passed The National Defense Authorization for Fiscal Year 1994, preventing the government from developing nuclear weapons with a yield of less than 5 kilotons, thereby making the official development of these weapons in the U.S. unlikely. This law was, however, repealed in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004.

http://www.nuclearweaponslaw.org/new_sm ... _govt.html

Interesting work, and cover story if anything else.

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PostTue Aug 30, 2011 5:56 am » by SUKHOV


Interesting find. The thread link above was talking about NASA's choices for a longer sustained moon trip and nuclear power was their number 1 choice.

A very small nuclear reactor in theory could be very safe and wouldn't need severe attention...but I'm still weary as power is a shifty business and it does need much human intervention.
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