Feeds

back to article 'Plutonium pinch' nips NASA

NASA's future solar system exploration programme could be threatened by a shortage of plutonium-238, New Scientist reports. Many of the agency's spacecraft rely on the nuclear fuel, but the US no longer produces the stuff, and despite previous estimates that the lack of plutonium-238 wouldn't bite until 2020, NASA is "already …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

We really need a new Cold War

Not just because it guarantees a ready supply of lovely Pu238, but because it means we'll get more cool-looking hardware.

0
0
Happy

Maybe...

..they should give Iran a call.

2
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

Gonna be frack difficult...

...as they cannot even enrich Uranium to nuclear bomb levels in any reasoanble timeframe in spite of regular fantastic and breathless "reporting" from the Murdoch paper empire. I would say that breeding Plutonium, and even more, extracting Pu 238 of a batch is right out.

0
0
Happy

I know a supplier...

I'm sure that there is a new manufacturer in the Middle East just itching to prove that it can supply uranium 238 in large quantities to the US. There may be some haggling over delivery mechanisms and scheduling that need to be worked out.

1
0
Coat

Good luck with that...

Yes unless that much talked about Iranian nuclear material turns out to be another propganda smokescreen.

Remember "weapons of mass destruction" "launch in 45 minutes" etc ?

0
0
FAIL

What is it with American paranoia?

"Oh no, we dont have anymore. What ever will we do? Oh we can buy it from Russia, you say? Well no we cant be reliant on those commie buggers. We must start producing some ourselves and in the meantime we'll cut back on using it in our projects instead of just buying what we need on the world market, because that would be wrong and unamerican..."

0
0

From the article

Accordingly, NS says NASA will rely on supplies bought from Russia to fuel its Jupiter Europa Orbiter's radio-isotope power source.

0
0
Thumb Down

BUT...

NASA will be cutting down on its use of supplies on other programs...

Im all for having a "home grown industry" but rather then nobbling forthcoming projects and damaging the potential science output whilst you build up said "home grown industry" you may as well buy overseas products...

0
0
Alert

Purchase abroad

NASA should do a deal with Iran, I'm sure they'll be able to supply bucket loads of the stuff....

0
0
Boffin

US supplies dwindle

but Don't we Brits have quiet a stockpile of this stuff??

Question is what have the yanks done with all thiers?? is it all blasted into space already?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Topping up

I thought there were barrels of the stuff at Sellafield just waiting to be picked up by someone.

0
0
Coat

No problem...

I believe Iran will soon have some for sale.

0
0
Bronze badge
Paris Hilton

So how...

long does it take to brew-up a batch of Pu238 anyway?

10 Years seems like a long time to me.

0
0

How Long?

First, build your nuclear reactor.

I think that might be their problem.

0
0
Grenade

Get your isotopes right

Naughty folks would probably want Pu-239 for creating nuclear bombs. Pu-238 would be handy for dirty bombs but (like Uranium 238) isn't much use for fissile bombs.

0
0
Joke

Never stopped making it

The US never stopped making it, they just said they did.

They need it for the super nuclear powered shield to protect the planet from the asteroid nicknamed Apophis.

I believe Bruce Willis has been asked to press the activation button on the requisite date

0
0
Boffin

@AC

Essentially, yes. Pu-238 only makes up a few percent of the plutonium output of a normal reactor - too little to make extraction practical. And military reactors are more interested in Pu-239 (Pu-238 is too stable to sustain a chain reaction). Therefore, the only way to produce it is through neutron bombardment of Neptunium-237(itself an expensive-to-extract reactor byproduct). After the US fell out of love with nuclear power, the demand for radioisotopic generators dropped so precipitously that it wasn't worth producing the stuff any more. That and the fact that the US hasn't actually been in the business of reprocessing waste nuclear fuel for some years.

1
0
Gold badge
Joke

Middle east supplier

Oh, you mean Israel. Good thinking.

0
0
Joke

No plutonium ?

They will have to stall the DeLorean !

0
0

Copy boo boo

"One programme already feeling the "plutonium pinch" is New Horizons, which recently announced three contenders for a 2018 mission to either the Moon, Venus or an asteroid"

You mean New Frontiers. New Horizons in the Pluto/Kuiper mission currently en route.

0
0
Bronze badge
WTF?

Funny I thought

The US still had a few Nuke Stations on line.

....Or did they all melt down?

0
0

Yeah we do

We have something like 108 or so currently in operation

0
0
Coat

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Surely in 5 years time they will just be able to bolt on a mr fusion and power equipment with rubbish?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Ask the Japanese for some.

They were the ones who bought up all the available plutonium in the '80s and '90s to be recycled into nuclear fuel for their expanding power industry. Ten-to-one, they still have gobs of it hidden away here and there.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.