Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

Space Reactors
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Author:  PMac [ Sep 16, 2016 12:38 am ]
Post subject:  Space Reactors

Jeff Bezos on nuclear reactors in space, the lack of bacon on Mars and humanity’s destiny in the solar system

Jeff Bezos: “I think NASA should work on a space-rated nuclear reactor. If you had a nuclear reactor in space-- especially if you want to go anywhere beyond Mars, you really need nuclear power. Solar power just gets progressively difficult as you get further way from the sun. And that’s a completely doable thing to have a safe, space-qualified nuclear reactor.”

Author:  PMac [ Sep 16, 2016 2:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

I suppose I should note this is my first post. Hopefully it is worth pointing out given who it is coming from and what he is driving towards in space. I wish there was a anything more on what route he thought that should take.

I'm an IT/Support guy in a educational software company, so I'm not going to be able to comment or contribute much about reactor design or neutronics but I hope I can be a positive contributor in asking questions and offering thoughts now and then from an interested and reasonably educated non-expert perspective.

Author:  Kurt Sellner [ Sep 20, 2016 10:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

Welcome to the forum, PMac.

I'm sure Mr. Bezos is aware that space based nuclear power has been tried before. As I recall the success rate is so far not that great. We have designs to work from and improve upon. I believe the problem is a lack of motivation. The risks of failure is greater with a nuclear reactor too, which I'm sure play in on the motivation factor.

I recall an orbital reactor that used NaK coolant sprung a leak. The NaK would leak out as a liquid but once free from the nuclear heat source it would freeze. With it's high surface tension in zero-g the molten metal would make huge "droplets" before freezing. Some of them as large as a softball, again as I recall. Even the smaller droplets, the size of a pinhead, could do considerable damage if it collided with another orbiter. The larger drops of frozen coolant would be like a cannonball. The radiation hazards are nothing by comparison and, as far as I'm concerned, nothing worth mentioning. Even so it would be the radiation that many would use to oppose nuclear power in space, they'd just forget that everything in space is just soaking in radiation.

Gordon McDowell made a very nice video that goes into the need for space based nuclear, have you seen it? You can see it here:

Author:  alexterrell [ Sep 21, 2016 7:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

I think Jeff Bezos should work on (ie invest in) an Earth rated nuclear reactor.

Nuclear reactors are ideal for planetary surfaces. Solar is ideal for space and cheaper than nuclear, probably out to about Jupiter. Beyond Jupiter, nuclear is needed. And on planetary surfaces - which is where we are.

What nuclear is Jeff Bezos investing in?

Author:  Kurt Sellner [ Sep 22, 2016 1:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

alexterrell wrote:
What nuclear is Jeff Bezos investing in?

According to Wikipedia he's invested in General Fusion. General Fusion is working on a very interesting fusor that I believe may actually work. Of all the fusion projects I've seen I believe only two have any chance of being commercially successful, this General Fusion project and the polywell fusor from EMC2.

I think he's putting his money where his mouth is. It's probably that he'd like to see more people invest in the companies he's jumpstarted and/or he's getting impatient on the progress and is willing to see his competition succeed so long as they'll sell him a ticket to visit Mars.

Author:  alexterrell [ Sep 22, 2016 2:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

Helion Energy?

Author:  Kurt Sellner [ Sep 22, 2016 7:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

alexterrell wrote:
Helion Energy?

After reading a bit about them I wonder if that isn't the same people I saw on Google Tech Talks. There was a time a few years ago that Google did a bit of a series of talks where they'd bring in people to talk about energy. I believe Mr. Sorensen was one of the speakers. There was also Dr. Bussard to talk about the polywell fusor. One of the people talked about a fusor that claimed to be able to do a cycled fusion and direct conversion of the energy to electricity, quite similar to what I saw with Helion Energy.

Fusion is going to be a way off, if it is successful at all. Judging by what I've read and heard of fusion the efficiency goes up considerably with size. If we do get fusion I expect them to be large. Much too large for any spacecraft except perhaps something the size of a Constitution class starship.

Fission will quite likely be how we expand beyond low Earth orbit. As I pointed out before we've already built space rated fission reactors, we just need to learn from our mistakes from that and build more.

Author:  KitemanSA [ Sep 29, 2016 1:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

alexterrell wrote:
Helion Energy?
Are you correcting or asking? Helion is NOT General Fusion.

General Fusion is a BC, Canada company that is working on a unique system for fusion where they use a series of actuators with incredible precision to compress a fuel filled void in a vat of liquid metal in such a way that it is supposed to collapse a magnetically confined plasma to the fusion point. That is all IIUTC.

Author:  PMac [ Oct 11, 2016 8:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

I would definitely agree that anyone interested in nuclear in space eventually should be pursuing making it work here on Earth first. Bezos seems more inclined than most others pursuing the future (space, energy, other innovation) with their fortunes to stay tight-lipped about much of what he is doing, I hope he has more investment going than he has made public.

I've been following Gordon's videos for some time including that one. It is amazing the difference in the past few years in public knowledge, visibility of molten salt reactors, the thorium fuel cycle and its potential, etc. Now you can find TED talks, Slashdot mentions of it. Not quite mainstream awareness but much more widely known. When I first ran across this stuff, there were pretty much Kirk and a few others grainy Google Talk videos, maybe around the time of Gordon's first Thorium Remix/LFTR in 5/15 minutes videos.

Seems like Bezos Expeditions may be what Bezos does his investments through although unsurprisingly there is little information as to specifics. I did actually shoot them an e-mail mentioning Flibe Energy and suggesting they have someone take a look since Flibe seems to be close to pursuing a funding round, I even linked to the EPRI report. I'm sure they get a ton of stuff and it will probably be circular-filed, but I did get a brief response acknowledging my note and can't hurt to have mentioned it, even if just getting the name in front of them. You never know.

There is no reason he or others couldn't fund more than one approach, particularly as different of ones as General Fusion and a company like Flibe. The amounts they are talking about, for example $20 million-ish for General Fusion from him are nothing to sneeze at to me, but several times what it sounds like Flibe wants to raise this round, and rounding errors in Bezos' net worth if he really wants to get behind something and move it forward.

Author:  Kirk Sorensen [ Feb 14, 2017 8:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

Nuclear Reactors to Power Space Exploration

It's hard for me to get very excited about this demonstration when the people who did it told me that they were going to be at this stage back in the summer of 2000.

Author:  Asteroza [ Feb 16, 2017 3:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Jeff Bezos suggests NASA should be space-rating a reacto

As one of the rare beasts to have worked on many sides/aspects related to this (arguably a bit a rock star in the field, because you are awesome), more people ought to bow down to your thoughts in this area, which means your comment is doubly damning. Though to be fair, considering how unstable government space technology research budgets have been, the pace is about right...

Author:  Kirk Sorensen [ Apr 28, 2017 12:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Space Reactors

Jeff Bezos Is Just $5 Billion Away From Being the World's Richest Person

If Bezos is that rich, and if he's committing a portion of his wealth to space development, and if a portion of that is to space nuclear power sources, well, that could be significant.

Author:  rgvandewalker [ Jul 31, 2017 3:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Space Reactors

LFTRs can have a high power density and burnup. They're good for vehicles.

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