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    Battelle awards contracts to design lunar nuclear power system


    June 23, 2022 - Post Register

     

      Battelle Energy Alliance, contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, and NASA have selected three proposals from businesses to design a nuclear power system for moon-based missions.

      INL announced the selected contractors in a Tuesday news release. The goal of the project is to design a fission surface power project which demonstrates a 40 kilowatt-electric nuclear reactor on the moon by the end of the decade.

      Each contract is valued at approximately $5 million and targets developing initial designs, the release said. INL is awarding the 12-month contracts to the following companies for the project’s Phase 1 design effort:

      Lockheed Martin — the company will partner with BWXT and Creare.

      • Westinghouse — the company will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne.

      • IX, a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and X-Energy — the company will partner with Maxar and Boeing.

      The Associated Press, in November, reported that plan submitted in response to the project’s request for proposal for the power system should include a uranium-fueled reactor core, a system to convert the nuclear power into usable energy, a thermal management system to keep the reactor cool, and a distribution system providing no less than 40 kilowatts of continuous electric power for 10 years in the lunar environment.

      Some other requirements include that it be capable of turning itself off and on without human help, that it be able to operate from the deck of a lunar lander, and that it can be removed from the lander and run on a mobile system and be transported to a different lunar site for operation, the Associated Press reported.

      Additionally, when launched from Earth to the moon, it should fit inside a 12-foot diameter cylinder that’s 18 feet long. It should not weigh more than 13,200 pounds, the Associated Press reported.

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      “The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the moon, and I look forward to seeing what each of these teams will accomplish,” INL Director John Wagner said in the release. “This project will also advance technologies that are directly relevant to nuclear electric propulsion systems for space applications.”

      The fission surface power project intends to create a power-rich environment on the moon and new capabilities for crewed Mars exploration, according to INL’s website. Additionally, the program aims to establish industry teams to partner with NASA and the Department of Energy to gain further insight and explore new concepts of fission surface power systems.

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