Atomic Batteries Charge More Than Curiosity
The Chinese are doing it. The people of India are doing it more with all the recent blackouts. The French have been doing at all hours of the day. Even on Mars they are now doing it. So is the US realizing it needs to do more of it too? I’m talking about boosting our energy output from nuclear power.
For those that missed it, the Mars rover Curiosity is actually powered by advanced nuclear power system (a 100 pound Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator to be precise) developed by LA based Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne, a division of United Technology Corp.
So while many us of marvel at the images of the Curiosity rover landing on the Red Planet, we have to remember that nuclear power is playing a crucial role in the expedition the same as it has done with other space missions since 1961. “NASA chose to use a nuclear power source because solar batteries did not meet the full range of the mission’s requirements”. In fact, since storage technologies are still largely unavailable and solar is not a 24/7 source of power, I firmly believe nuclear power is going to have a key role in our country’s future energy arsenal despite all the naysayers. This view will likely more mainstream approval in coming years as the US develops power management disciplines through smart grid technology and infrastructure as well as when the country recognizes without nuclear power it can’t meet more stringent carbon standards while also becoming less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
So it does seem the US is once again looking to leverage the power of nuclear energy in our own backyard as well as planet Mars. If NASA is confident that nuclear energy (plutonium-238) can power the most complex robot ever assembled, we need to be willing to consider the use of smaller, factory-made modular nuclear reactors as a source of future power generation.
With the US DOE likely to announce the recipients of its design development awards within the next 60 days, the nuclear space could again be about to get a positive charge. Now that’s something to get curious about!