The race for developing a viable small modular reactor is on, but the first community to have a small reactor installed may not be in Idaho or Canada, after all. It might actually be on the planet Mars.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and U.S. Department of Energy officials in Nevada said Friday that initial tests of a compact and sturdy nuclear power plant that could be safely transported through space had been successful and that the miniature unit would undergo full power testing in March.
The unit is dubbed “KRUSTY.” Testing of various components has been “greatly successful … the models have predicted very well what has happened and operations have gone smoothly,” Reuters quoted the reactor's chief designer Dave Poston at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as saying.
The prototype model includes reactor core about the size of a roller of paper towels, the report said. It burns uranium-235 fuel. It would be used to provide a habitable shelter on Mars, where the nighttime temperatures are extremely cold and the environment is subjected to “very interesting dust storms that can last weeks and months that engulf the entire planet,” according to Steve Jurczyk, Nasa Space Technology Mission Directorate associate administrator.
The reactor could be put to use recharging vehicles and domestic systems. About 40 to 50 kilowatts of power would be necessary to sustain life on the red planet, said Lee Mason, Nasa technologist.
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