Author Topic: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions  (Read 24843 times)

Offline Tea Party Space Czar

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Re: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions
« Reply #60 on: 08/27/2015 01:11 PM »
You have to keep pushing - even when you get your way on Capital Hill.  Good news if/when it happens.  It would be nice if all of our deep space missions had Pu238 as an option if they desired.

http://spacenews.com/doe-to-crank-out-new-plutonium-238-in-2019/

Eventually cranking out 1.5 kilos a year.

Hooray Deep Space Science.

Respectfully,
Andrew Gasser
President, TEA Party in Space

What we want and what we can afford are two very different things.

Demanding space policy that is fiscally responsible and utilizing the free market system.

Online Blackstar

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Re: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions
« Reply #61 on: 12/09/2017 03:38 PM »
A 2008 JPL briefing on Pu-238 production and requirements. You can look at this and see how far we've progressed. (I may have an original, not scanned, version of this file. If so, I'll swap them out.)

Note: this is a HUGE file.
« Last Edit: 12/09/2017 06:49 PM by Blackstar »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions
« Reply #62 on: 12/10/2017 12:42 PM »
There's also some info from April 2016 here:

http://fiso.spiritastro.net/telecon/Wham_4-20-16/


Offline docmordrid

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Re: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions
« Reply #63 on: 12/31/2017 05:57 PM »
And what of Kilopower? There was supposed the be a Q4 test, so anyone hear a result? Seems it could make Pu moot.

https://energy.gov/articles/powering-nasa-s-human-reach-red-planet

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20170002010.pdf
« Last Edit: 12/31/2017 05:58 PM by docmordrid »
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Offline spacetraveler

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Re: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions
« Reply #64 on: 12/31/2017 06:24 PM »
I haven't seen this article discussed yet.

https://www.space.com/36217-plutonium-238-nuclear-spacecraft-fuel-production.html

Apparently there is another effort being led by a private company to start an alternative production line to the DOE one that will utilize Canadian reactors. Their goal is to produce 5 kilos per year.
« Last Edit: 12/31/2017 06:25 PM by spacetraveler »

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Re: Wired article on Pu-238 production for space missions
« Reply #65 on: 01/02/2018 03:08 PM »
I haven't seen this article discussed yet.

https://www.space.com/36217-plutonium-238-nuclear-spacecraft-fuel-production.html

Apparently there is another effort being led by a private company to start an alternative production line to the DOE one that will utilize Canadian reactors. Their goal is to produce 5 kilos per year.


UPDATE: I just noticed that the article is dated from March 27, 2017. We have not heard anything about this specific subject since then. I think that fact sheds a lot of light on my comments below. (Simple version: this is not a realistic proposal which is why you have not heard anything more about it in the past nine months.)



There's stuff in that article that doesn't make sense.

"Here's how it will work. PNNL has developed new technology for producing "targets" made of neptunium-237, Shipp said. These targets will be shipped to CNL's Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, where they will be assembled into reactor bundles. These bundles will then go to OPG's Darlington reactor, where they will be irradiated to generate plutonium-238. Then, the bundles will head back to CNL for disassembly and chemical processing. (The DOE's plutonium pipeline is similarly complex, involving ORNL, INL and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.)"

Later in the article it says that the Neptunium that they will turn into Pu-238 is going to come from DoE. But... how? Neptunium is an isotope. How easy is it going to be to get permission to export that to Canada? I would not say impossible, but Energy treats this stuff as a weapon.

Also, I vaguely remember a former NASA official telling me that one of the things he did ca. 2008 was have NASA go to the DoE facility where they stored the Neptunium and have NASA property stickers affixed to all the big barrels of Neptunium, so that NASA could lay claim to them. That means that DoE alone cannot simply hand them over to somebody, NASA has to approve it. And they're not going to want to do that.

Also:

"If everything goes according to plan, the TSM-led effort could be in production as early as 2022. The process is designed to make 11 lbs. (5 kg) of Pu-238 per year, though yields could nearly double if the customer desired, Shipp said."

And this is where I think this looks like a whole lot of dubiousness (I'm being polite). So allow me to shout: NOBODY NEEDS 5 KG PER YEAR OF PU-238. The fact that they are talking about that amount of Pu-238 indicates to me that they have not actually bothered to talk to the potential users. In addition, that is WAY more than what DoE is going to manufacture for NASA, so if they actually do this, it raises the question of why you would need the DoE production, which NASA has now spent many tens of millions of dollars to reconstitute.

Also:

"That customer would likely be the DOE (and, by extension, NASA), he said,"

The only customer is NASA. They don't know this?

"Shipp said his team has discussed its plans with NASA informally."

Okay, stop, just stop. The only user is NASA. If these guys did not start by discussing this with NASA but only now are tentatively talking to them, it seems to me that they have gone about it all exactly backwards.

One almost gets the sense that they don't know what they're doing...
« Last Edit: 01/02/2018 03:14 PM by Blackstar »

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