#1 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, September 19th, 2013 13:38
#2 By: Peter, September 19th, 2013 13:53
I'm more worried about our cavorite stockpiles. They've been depressingly low as long as I can remember.
#3 By: chenille, September 19th, 2013 14:09
And making more would take helium, which is becoming scarce too. It's uless
#4 By: Cary, September 19th, 2013 14:11
We can just mine the moon...
I guess that if we are out of cavorite, then it will be hard to get to the moon.
#5 By: Stephen Schenck, September 19th, 2013 14:45
What's the problem? It's not like there are plutonium mines that China's blocking our access to. We get new plutonium the same we got old plutonium: making it.
#6 By: TheGlitchEcliptic, September 19th, 2013 14:45
Hydrogen balloons! We shall sail through the stars in the Edwardian fashion!
#7 By: miasm, September 19th, 2013 15:10
The DOE believes a relatively modest $10 to 20 million in funding each year through 2020 could yield an operation capable of making between 3.3 and 11 pounds of plutonium-238 annually — plenty to keep a steady stream of spacecraft in business.
FFS, someone sell a yacht.
I mean, if you've got one spare, step up to the plate and get some space vehicles named after you and your kids.
Edit: They're going to try and find life on Europa! Just think of it:
"And it is Confirmed, life has been discovered on Europa by the instruments aboard the 'Richard Richardson'!"
#8 By: cservant, September 19th, 2013 15:19
I shall bring a smoke jacket.
#9 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, September 19th, 2013 15:39
The "Richard Richardson" ain't bad. But my fear is that we'd end up with the "Verizon moon lander" or "Frit-o-Lay Venusian orbiter".
#10 By: Tim Quinn, September 19th, 2013 15:46
Someone needs to invent a rocket powered by amirite. The internets are full of the stuff.
#11 By: miasm, September 19th, 2013 16:09
I'd cheer for the 'Wall Mart McLander' if it found life on Europa!
#12 By: Cary, September 19th, 2013 16:42
We need synergy.... KY Penetrator; Windows Explorer; Preparation H Uranus Probe; Orbitz Orbiter
#13 By: Josh Freeman, September 19th, 2013 17:01
Heard recently on Fraser Cain's Weekly Space Hangout on G+ that they had restarted production. In the article's comments someone posted a link to wikipedia that seems to back up this statement. Source article for the wiki statement
#14 By: Noah Django Gross, September 19th, 2013 17:11
still wondering about the question at the end of this post , particularly after learning that we recently sent up ten pounds of plutonium for Curiosity.
#15 By: Cary, September 19th, 2013 17:55
I think that they just did some trial runs to check that their Np-237 target works as planned and to verify their models for how long the target needs to remain in the reactor at a given neutron flux. Also probably to validate their chemistry for processing the targets after irradiation. This is a "new" way of getting the Pu-238 -- the old stuff was just separated from fuel rods (usually during weapons development).
Here are some links:
Relatively technical overview of what they are doing (lots-o-acronyms)
Studies of Plutonium-238 Production at the High Flux Isotope Reactor - Pub33780.pdf
Couple of articles from a fellow that reports on Oak Ridge Lab:
$20M plutonium project at ORNL to support space program » Knoxville News Sentinel
Update on plutonium project at ORNL | Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground | knoxnews.com
#16 By: Cary, September 19th, 2013 18:05
Modern US RTGs are designed to survive re-entry intact (and have done so a couple times). Even if the encapsulation failed, the ceramic Pu elements should be non-dispersible/non-soluble, so there should be little risk of contamination.
#17 By: Noah Django Gross, September 19th, 2013 18:58
to which i naïvely reply: can we not also encapsulate the waste by the same method?
#18 By: Cary, September 19th, 2013 20:06
10 lbs of Pu-238 in a ceramic form is probably just a bit larger than a soda-pop can -- pretty easy to encapsulate really well. The radiation from Pu-238 is mostly shielded by the Pu-238 itself.
/start handwaving calc
Just one fuel rod bundle from a reactor is 4-5 meters long and probably weighs ~1000 lbs -- a bit more daunting task to encapsulate... One of the more robust ways to encapsulate the bundles would be a spent fuel transport cask which can handle ~4 of the bundles that I mentioned, however the cask is only designed to survive a 9 meter fall and a short time at elevated temperatures. The loaded cask would likely weight ~30,000 lb, which [I think] is the upper capacity of most current heavy launch vehicles to deliver an item to geosynchronous orbit. So, spent fuel encapsulated well enough to survive a worse-case-scenario would probably be limited to ~1 bundle per launch -- given that there can be ~200 bundles in a reactor, it would take a long time and a lot of $$ (and a fair amount of risk) just to get rid of 1 reactor core.
end handwaving calc/
#19 By: Noah Django Gross, September 19th, 2013 20:09
awesome response! thank you. ah well, at least I admitted it was a naïve question, right?
#20 By: Tyson Mowat, September 19th, 2013 21:14
I'm sure that in 1980 you can buy plutonium in any corner store, but here in 1958 it's a little harder to come by!
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