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The push for nuclear power in space

“We know that over the years the U.S. Department of Energy has a terrible track record of worker and community contamination during these space nukes fabrication processes. One example is the 244 cases of worker contamination at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico while building the plutonium generators for the 1997 Cassini space probe,” said Gagnon.

“We’ve known for years that virtually every space mission that NASA flies is ‘dual use’—meaning that it serves two masters—civilian and military.

“The ultimate lesson here,” said Gagnon, “is that the nuclear industry views space as a new market for nuclear rockets, nuclear-powered rovers on Mars, and nuclear-powered mining colonies on the planetary bodies. Concern from Congress about impacts for life on planet Earth?

Not one word in that regard was expressed in the hearing”


The Push for Nukes in Space
, CounterPunch,  BY KARL GROSSMAN, 28 Oct 21,

The co-chairs of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space & Technology Committee were cheerleaders for the use of nuclear power in space at a hearing at which they presided over last week titled “Accelerating Deep Space Travel with Space Nuclear Propulsion.”

The advocacy of Representatives Don Beyer and Eddie Bernice Johnson for nukes in space was strongly criticized in a subsequent interview by Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space………

Witnesses testifying before the subcommittee included those from the aerospace industry including Michael French, vice president for space systems of the Aerospace Industries Association. ……….

There were no witnesses invited to the hearing who are critical of the use of nuclear power in space. Gagnon has been coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space since its formation in 1992. Based in Maine, it is the leading international organization opposing the use of nuclear power in space through protests, an annual “Space for Peace Week” and lawsuits through the years.

Said Gagnon: “The recent testimonies by aerospace industry operatives before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics were quite telling. But even more so were the opening statements by committee co-chairs, both Democrats, who hail from the heavily space-oriented states of Virginia and Texas. Both committee chairs Don Beyer (VA) and Bernice Johnson (TX) enthusiastically endorsed the proposal to continue spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually toward preparation of nuclear reactor flight tests in space.”

“The logic behind this dangerous ‘field test’ is to prepare to send nuclear-powered rockets to Mars,” said Gagnon. “Ostensibly these plans are to protect the ‘safety of our astronauts’ by reducing their exposure to in-space radiation with ‘shorter trips’ to the red planet because nuclear rockets would cut in half the travel time. This is very telling as concern over the safety of a couple of astronauts ‘trumps’ the safety of the Department of Energy workers who will be fabricating these space nuclear devices.”

“We know that over the years the U.S. Department of Energy has a terrible track record of worker and community contamination during these space nukes fabrication processes. One example is the 244 cases of worker contamination at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico while building the plutonium generators for the 1997 Cassini space probe,” said Gagnon.

“In addition, this concern over astronaut safety also ‘trumps’ the safety of all life on Earth as plans call for the testing of these nuclear rocket engines just over our heads in space,” he said.

“During the testimony of several aerospace industry executives at the hearing they admitted that current regulations that oversee ground testing of these reactors are ‘too restrictive’ because they require the capture and processing of ‘radiologic sources’ in order to ‘reduce contamination.’ Thus, with no regulation of testing in space the powerful alliance of aerospace and nuclear industry is asking Congress to give them a free pass,” Gagnon said.

“We’ve known for years that virtually every space mission that NASA flies is ‘dual use’—meaning that it serves two masters—civilian and military. During the committee hearing it was acknowledged that DARPA [the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] has its own nuclear propulsion project for ‘national security interests’. This indicates that this proposed space nuke testing program will benefit the Pentagon’s goal to create space nuclear reactors for military operations in space.”

“The ultimate lesson here,” said Gagnon, “is that the nuclear industry views space as a new market for nuclear rockets, nuclear-powered rovers on Mars, and nuclear-powered mining colonies on the planetary bodies. Concern from Congress about impacts for life on planet Earth? Not one word in that regard was expressed in the hearing”

“If NASA wants to travel into space, then use solar power. There are ample examples of current successful solar missions into deep space,” he said.

“Let’s slow this run-away freight train down and let the public know about, and comment on, these dangerous plans to nuclearize space,” said Gagnon…………………………………………

There have been three accidents involving U.S. space nuclear missions,

 the worst in 1964 involving a satellite powered by a plutonium-fueled RTG, the SNAP 9A. The satellite failed to achieve orbit, broke up in the atmosphere as it came crashing back down to Earth, its plutonium dispersing as dust extensively on Earth. Dr. John Gofman, an M.D. and Ph.D., professor at the University of California at Berkeley, formerly associate director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, author of Poisoned Power and involved in early studies of plutonium, linked this accident to an increase in lung cancer on Earth.

Following the SNAP-9A accident, NASA pushed the development of solar power for satellites and now all U.S. satellites have energized by solar power—as is the International Space Station.

Still, NASA for years insisted that nuclear power was necessary for power beyond the orbit of Mars—a claim that has been demonstrated to be false. In 2011, for example, NASA launched its Juno space probe to Jupiter—its electrical system energized by solar panels. It’s still up there studying Jupiter, despite sunlight being a hundredth of what it is on Earth.Still, the drive to utilize nuclear power in space continues being pushed hard…………………..Meanwhile, studies and articles have pointed to solar energy providing all the power needed for would-be settlements on Mars and the Moon. ……………………
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.   https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/28/the-push-for-nukes-in-space/

October 30, 2021 - Posted by | space travel, USA

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