[time-nuts] GPS interference and history...

Daniel Schultz n8fgv at usa.net
Thu Jun 9 21:36:05 UTC 2011

The main issue with nuclear power in space is that there is a serious
worldwide shortage of Plutonium 238 used in RTG's. This is a different isotope
than the Pu 239 used in nuclear weapons and breeder reactors. Pu 238 is
produced by bombarding Neptunium 237 with neutrons in a reactor, the Np 237
itself has to be chemically extracted from spent nuclear fuel rods. Neither of
these processes is easy or cheap. The USA does not currently have the capacity
to produce Pu 238, the Department of Energy was able to purchase enough from
Russia to fuel the Cassini and New Horizons missions but there is barely
enough Pu 238 in the world to supply NASA's proposed outer planet missions.
The government is debating the possibility of restarting the reactor that
would produce more Pu 238 but that won't be cheap either.

The Wikipedia article contains links to articles describing the problem:

Dan Schultz N8FGV


>I well recall the furor over Cassini-Huygens in 1997 but approval was
>ultimately granted and, of course, the launch was without incident.  Since
>then, New Horizons, Galileo, and Ulysses have been launched with far less
>public outcry, despite the fact that all are powered by RTGs.  Arguably,
>well-designed reactors could be even safer.

>While I appreciate that sensitivity to nuclear power for earth orbit
>satellites could be greater than for deep space vehicles, we may have to
>agree to disagree on the feasibility of nuclear powered satellites.

>> Nuclear power in space is poltically utterly impossible in the US. There
>> is huge opposition to RTGs, never mind even the thought of reactors.

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