Ebene News – UA – Nuclear rockets to Mars are dangerous and unnecessary

Nuclear space technology risks causing further damage to our planet and is an unnecessary expense when we have higher priorities, writes Karl Grossman

A REPORT PROMOTING rocket propulsion by nuclear energy for US missions to Mars, written by a committee made up of people deeply involved in nuclear energy, was released last week by the National Academies of Sciences, engineering and medicine (NAS)

The 104-page report also exposes the “synergies” in space nuclear activities between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US military, something that has not been explicitly put forward since the founding of the NASA as a supposedly civilian agency in 1958

“Space nuclear power and propulsion systems have the potential to provide the United States with military advantages NASA could benefit from a program by working with a DoD [Department of Defense] program with security objectives national “

The NAS describes itself as having been “created to advise the nation” with “independent and objective advice to inform policy”

The threat of nuclear war is ever-present despite the horrors of the past, writes Dr Helen Caldicott

The 11 committee members who wrote the report for the national academies include:

The NAS report is titled “Nuclear Space Propulsion for Human Exploration of Mars” It is unrated and is available here

The nuclear industry sees space as a new – and widely open – market for its toxic product which has taken its dirty course on Mother Earth

During our 1989, 1990 and 1997 campaigns to stop the launches of NASA’s Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini plutonium space probes, we learned that the nuclear industry had positioned its agents on the committees of the NASA who made the decisions about the types of energy sources would be placed on these deep space missions Now it appears the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that study missions to Mars The recommendation, no surprise, is that nuclear reactors are the best way to fuel a mission to Mars

This is not the best for us Terrans because the Department of Energy has a bad track record of human and environmental contamination when manufacturing nuclear devices. launch could have catastrophic consequences

We’ve fought DoE and NASA in those previous nuclear launches and we’re back to battle The nuclear industry is targeting nuclear-powered mining colonies on an assortment of planetary bodies – all requiring legions of nuclear devices produced at the DoE , then launched on rockets that explode from time to time

We urge the public to help us pressure NASA and DoE to say no to nuclear weapons in space We must protect life here on this planet We are in the midst of a pandemic and people lost their jobs, their homes, their health care and even the food on their tables

There have been accidents in the history of the US – and also the former Soviet Union and now Russia – using nuclear power in space

And the NAS report, in depth, recognizes how accidents can occur with its new scheme of using nuclear power on rockets for missions to Mars

“Ensuring the safety of nuclear systems is essential to protect operating personnel as well as the general public and the terrestrial environment”

So, under the report’s plan, rockets with nuclear reactors on board would be launched “with fresh [uranium] fuel before they ran into power to ensure that the amount of radioactivity on board stay as low as possible ”

Plans call for “restricting the start-up and operation of reactors in space until spacecraft are in nuclear safety orbits or trajectories ensuring the safety of people and the environment from Earth “But:” Additional policies and practices must be established to prevent unintentional re-entry of the system upon return to Earth after reactors have been operated for extended periods “

The worst US accident involving the use of nuclear power in space occurred in 1964 when the US satellite Transit 5BN-3, powered by a SNUNEP-9A thermoelectric radioisotope generator fueled by plutonium, failed to reach orbit and fell from the sky, disintegrating while burning in the atmosphere, globally spewing plutonium – considered the deadliest of all radioactive substances

This accident has long been linked by Dr. John Gofman, MD and PhD, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, to a spike in global rates of lung cancer where plutonium has spread. propagated He had also participated in the development of some of the first methods of isolation of plutonium for the Manhattan Project

NASA, after SNUNEP-9A (SNUNEP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power), has become a pioneer in the development of photovoltaic solar energy All US satellites are now powered by solar energy, just like the Station international space

The worst accident involving nuclear energy in space under the Soviet / Russian space program occurred in 1978 when the Kosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor on board fell from orbit and spread radioactive debris over a 600 km strip Great Slave Lake at Baker Lake in Canada There were 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of highly enriched uranium fuel (nearly 90 percent) on Kosmos 954

Highly enriched uranium – 90% atomic bomb grade – would be used in a reactor design proposed in the NAS report

With the escalation of racially motivated aggression against China, it is important to reflect on history to avert the catastrophe of nuclear war

HEU [highly enriched uranium] fuel, due to the ease with which it could be diverted to nuclear weapons production, is a higher value target than HALEU [low enriched uranium in high dosage] , especially during launch and reentry accidents far from the launch site As a result, non-proliferation experts see HEU as requiring more safety considerations In addition, if the United States uses HEU for space reactors, it may become more difficult to convince other countries to reduce their use of HEU in civilian applications

As for rocket propulsion in the vacuum of space, it doesn’t take a lot of conventional chemical propulsion to move a spacecraft – and quickly

And there was a full article in New Scientist magazine last October on “The New Age of Sailing”, as it was titled, with the caption:

“We are on the cusp of a new kind of space travel that can take us to places no rocket could ever visit”

The article began by recounting 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler observing comets and seeing “that their tails always pointed away from the sun, no matter which direction they were heading. For Kepler, that only meant one thing: comet tails were blown by the sun “

Indeed, “the sun produces a wind in space” and “it can be harnessed,” the piece said:

“Firstly, there are particles of light coming from the sun constantly, each carrying a tiny momentum. Second, there is a flow of charged particles, mainly protons and electrons, also moving out of the Sun We call the charged particles the solar wind, but the two currents blow a gale “

Japan launched its IKAROS spacecraft in 2010 – navigating space using energy from the sun The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 mission launched in 2019 and is still in space, flying with the ‘energy of the sun

New systems using solar energy are under development, following the current use of thin films like Mylar for solar sails

The New Scientist article spoke of scientists “who wish to use these new techniques to set a course for worlds currently far beyond our reach – namely the planets orbiting our nearest star, Alpha Centauri “

The NAS committee, however, was primarily interested in a choice between nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) or nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) for rocket propulsion

“Although NEP and NTP both use nuclear power, they convert that power into thrust in different ways depending on difficult technologies”

As the report explains NEP systems, they “convert the heat from the fission reactor into electrical energy, just like nuclear power plants on Earth. This electrical power is then used to produce thrust by accelerating an ionized propellant. As for an NTP system, it “is conceptually similar to a chemical propulsion system, where the combustion chamber has been replaced by a nuclear reactor to heat the propellant”

“Advanced nuclear propulsion systems (with or in combination with chemical propulsion systems) have the potential to significantly reduce travel time [to Mars] compared to fully non-nuclear approaches”

One Problem: Radioactivity from one of the systems affecting humans on rockets with nuclear reactors propelling them Back after WWII with the onset of the Cold War, the US began work on bombers powered by nuclear reactors on board – even built one The idea was that such bombers could stay in the air for days, ready to drop nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union No crew would need to be scrambled and the bombers then sent to altitude

But, as The Atlantic magazine noted in a 2019 article titled “Why There Are No Nuclear Planes”:

The problem of protecting pilots from reactor radiation turned out to be even more difficult. What good would an airplane be that killed its own pilots? To protect the crew from radioactivity, the reactor needed thick, heavy layers of armor but to take off, the plane had to be as light as possible Adequate armor seemed incompatible with flight Yet engineers issued the ‘hypothesis that the weight saved without the need for fuel could be sufficient to compensate for the reactor and its armor The United States spent 16 years tinkering with the idea, to no avail

The Eisenhower administration concluded that the program was unnecessary, dangerous and too costly On March 28, 1961, the new President John F Kennedy Canceled Program Nuclear-powered aircraft proposals have cropped up since then, but fear of radiation and lack of funding have dampened all such ideas

Space reactor armor has been analyzed and designed for a range of power levels To minimize mass, the shield of a CIP system is designed using a ‘shadow shield’ approach, taking the form of a ” a conical or cylindrical barrier that attenuates radiation in a conical region extending behind the shield, within which the spacecraft and payload are located For any spacecraft with a nuclear radiation source, the dose rate is managed by a combination of (1) distance between reactor (or other source) and payload and (2) shield attenuation

“Synergies” of nuclear space activities between NASA and the US Military put forward in NAS report marks change in public recognition Agency was supposed to have a clearly civilian orientation, encouraging peaceful applications in science space

With the possibility of US nuclear power plants becoming fragile, President Biden must consider a blackout

However, over the decades there have been numerous reports of his close relationship with the US military, especially during the period of NASA Space Shuttle flights

“During the heyday of the Space Shuttle, NASA routinely carried classified payloads into orbit for the Department of Defense, among other projects the agencies collaborated on.”

With the formation of a US Space Force by the Trump administration in 2019, the NASA-Pentagon link would appear to emerge from the shadows, as the NAS report indicates The Biden administration does not intend eliminate the Space Force, despite the historic 1967 Outer Space Treaty, put in place by the US, the then Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, reserving space for peaceful purposes It gives the new sixth branch of US “full support” for the armed forces according to its spokesperson, Jen Psaki

Areas of common interest include (1) fundamental questions about the development and testing of materials (such as reactor fuels and moderators) that can survive NTP conditions and (2) the advancement of modeling and simulation capabilities that are relevant to NTP

Additionally, a NASA NTP system could potentially use a larger-scale version of a DoD reactor, depending on the design

Threats to US space assets are on the rise They include anti-satellite weapons and counter-space activities Rapidly traversing vast spatial distances with a reasonably sized vehicle in response to these threats requires a propulsion system with an Isp [specific impulse ] and high thrust This could be especially important in a high-paced military conflict

In addition, on December 19, just before leaving office, Trump signed Directive 6 on space policy, entitled “National Strategy for Nuclear Space Propulsion”

DoD [Department of Defense] and NASA, in cooperation with DOE [Department of Energy] and other private sector agencies and partners, as appropriate, should assess technological options and key technical challenges associated for an NTP system, including reactor designs, power conversion, and thermal management DoD and NASA should work with their partners to assess and utilize pooling opportunities with other SNPP needs [nuclear power and space propulsion], terrestrial energy needs and reactor demonstration projects planned by agencies and the private sector

The DoD, in coordination with the DOE and other agencies, and with private sector partners as appropriate, should develop reactor and propulsion system technologies that will address key technical challenges in areas such as that the design and production of reactors, propulsion system and spacecraft design and integration of the SNPP system “

It will take huge actions at the local level and efforts on the part of the officials who understand the error of the spatial directorate taken to stop it

Karl Grossman is Full Professor of Journalism at State University of New York He is also an award-winning investigative journalist Click here to go to Karl’s website

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Ebene News – AU – Nuclear rockets to Mars are dangerous and unnecessary

Source: https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/nuclear-rockets-to-mars-are-dangerous-and-unnecessary,14812