The US Government is looking for an idea how to put nuclear energy on the Moon. Earlier NASA has issued a call for proposals on how to build a nuclear power plant on the Moon. It is part of a long-term project NASA is working with the Idaho National Laboratory. Idaho National Laboratory is one of the most important nuclear research centers in the United States.
The goal of the project is to develop a technology by the end of the decade. The inventive technology will provide a solar-independent energy source for long-term lunar missions as well.
Actually, the long nights of two earthly weeks is the main problem with the use of solar energy on the Moon. To cover the two weeks period, a source of energy for research station on the Moon will have to be harvested in different way.
According to the NASA project, the autonomous nuclear reactor should be compact and should fit in a cylinder of four meters in diameter and six meters long. Furthermore, nuclear reactor’s mass should not exceed six tons.
The nuclear device will have to be made on Earth and the flown to the Moon in one piece and be ready to provide power supply immediately. Moon nuclear reactor has to be powered by uranium, be able to operate for at least ten years, and continuously supply 40 kilowatts of power.
It is important to note that the reactor will be autonomous: it needs to switch on and off without any human supervision. In addition, as neither water nor air will be available for this purpose on the Moon the cooling aspect of the reactor is quite challenging.
Scientists say that same Moon technology could be later adapted to the conditions of Mars. On mars the sunlight provides less than half the power there on Earth, so alternatives to solar batteries will be needed as well. Curiosity and Perseverance are currently on Mars, they both are powered by nuclear power, but not by nuclear fission reactors. They are powered by a simpler system – radioisotope heat generators.