An artist’s concept of a fission surface power system on the surface of the Moon. Credit: Galaxy Wire
A moon base nuclear power plant won't look anything like it's Earthly cousin.
(PhysOrg.com) -- The first nuclear power plant being considered for production of electricity for manned or unmanned bases on the Moon, Mars and other planets may really look like it came from outer space, according to a leader of the project who spoke here today at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
James E. Werner said that innovative fission technology for surface power applications is far different from the familiar terrestrial nuclear power stations, which sprawl over huge tracts of land and have large structures such as cooling towers.
"People would never recognize the fission power system as a nuclear power reactor," said Werner. "The reactor itself may be about 1 1/2 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high, about the size of a carry-on suitcase. There are no cooling towers. A fission power system is a compact, reliable, safe system that may be critical to the establishment of outposts or habitats on other planets. Fission power technology can be applied on Earth's Moon, on Mars, or wherever NASA sees the need for continuous power."
The team is scheduled to build a technology demonstration unit in 2012. This is a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Werner leads the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory involvement in this effort, which includes participation in the reactor design and modeling teams, fuel development and fabrication and development of a small electrical pump for the liquid metal cooled system.