NASA has tested a nuclear reactor for lunar base



Photo: NASA

Science news: NASA and Los Alamos national laboratory successfully tested a compact nuclear reactor Kilopower.

NASA and the National nuclear security administration announced the successful testing of nuclear power plant Kilopower. It proposes to use to provide energy for bases on the moon, on Mars, and spacecraft for missions to the outskirts of the Solar system. It is reported by NASA.

Mainly for space missions as a source of energy using solar panels, but in the case of missions to distant planets from the Sun it may not be enough. Therefore, such devices are almost always used in thermoelectric generators. However, the capacity of such reactors is usually small, while most are on the expensive plutonium, forcing engineers to seek other solutions.

At the end of 2017, NASA has launched a project Kilopower, in which it is anticipated to create a simple and reliable nuclear installations . As the fuel KRUSTY reactors use enriched uranium (235U), and their power, depending on modification, can be from one to ten kilowatts. In each setting one hollow cylindrical fuel rod, the rod-moderator and reflector of neutrons from beryllium oxide on the outside.

For the system, NASA engineers used a Stirling engine in which heat from the decay of uranium expands the working fluid that pushes the piston, is connected to an electric generator. Above the reactor is installed is similar to the umbrella the components of the cooling system.

Scientists have conducted several phases of testing at the test site in Nevada to prove that the installation is really able to generate electricity, and the system is stable and secure. Kilopower for 28 hours carried out a full cycle from the start, set power, stable performance, decreasing power and shutting down. In addition, was lost a scenario with the failure of various systems of the reactor, in particular, the destruction of the heat pipes, stop the engines. All tests showed that the system remains manageable even in the situation of multiple failures.