lunes, junio 28, 2010

Obama Seeks to Revive Space Nuclear Power

Karl Grossman

June 25, 2010

Despite its huge dangers, the Obama administration is seeking to revive the use of nuclear power in space. It wants the U.S. to produce the plutonium isotope that has been used for electric generation in space and is also looking to build nuclear-propelled rockets for missions to Mars...

Plutonium-238 has been used to generate electricity on space probes and rovers and also satellites. But in 1964 a satellite with a plutonium-fueled generator, after failing to achieve orbit, fell to Earth, breaking up as it hit the atmosphere and dispersing 2.1 pounds of Pu-238 from its SNAP -- (for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) 9A system. A study by a group of European health and radiation protection agencies reported that "a worldwide soil sampling program in 1970 showed SNAP-9A debris present at all continents and at all latitudes." Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long linked that fall-out to an increase of lung cancer on Earth. The accident caused NASA to pioneer the use of solar panels on satellites.

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