ScienceDaily reports that humanity is thinking about our first nuclear power plants for the production of electricity for manned or unmanned bases on the Moon, Mars and other planets.  The technology will be much smaller than the large commercial nuclear facilities we see hear on Earth that power large cities and regions.

According to James Werner, leader of the team designing the nuclear reactor technology:

People would never recognize the fission power system as a nuclear power reactor. 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. 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.

His team is scheduled to build a demonstration unit in 2012.  The project is a jointly administered by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Nuclear power is preferred over solar because it can produce electricity in any environment.

Fission power technology doesn’t rely on sunlight, making it able to produce large, steady amounts of power at night or in harsh environments like those found on the Moon or Mars. A fission power system on the Moon could generate 40 kilowatts or more of electric power, approximately the same amount of energy needed to power eight houses on Earth.  A fission power system could operate in a variety of locations such as in craters, canyons or caves.

 

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