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Guest: Dr. Christopher (Chris) Morrison; Topics: Space nuclear power, Canadian Arctic Circle villages key to space, space settlement, nuclear propulsion, nuclear safety issues and more.
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We welcomed Dr. Chris Morrison to the program to discuss new ideas for space nuclear power, new approaches and fuels being developed by his company, UltraSafe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and multiple related nuclear space topics. Please note that our guest has placed several items for our interest on the blog for this show so do view the material, papers and documents. During the first segment of 100 minute program, our guest provided us with a bombshell statement saying that nuclear propulsion for space was not essential as we could make do with chemical rockets but for living, working, and settling in space, nuclear power for energy needs was absolutely essential. Dr. Morrison spent a considerable amount of time in this segment explaining his comments and supporting them with factual information. Do not miss what Chris said. Not only did he focus us on space nuclear power and why it was and would be so important, but he also provided us with a comprehensive background and understanding to the technology, policy issues, possible public fear, safety and even economics. As an example, I suspect you will find his human wattage comparison totals which he used early in the discussion to be most interesting.
We received several listener calls and emails. Another example was in the form of an email asking why we simply could not make bigger RTGs which we had been using for space for decades rather than trying to build special space reactors. Don't miss the detailed explanation/answer Chris provided us. In the process of responding to this particular question, the door was opened for our guest to begin talking about fission power, the controversy behind it, and the fact that it was very safe.
Another email came from Rod in Phoenix wanting to know about the Zubrin Mars Direct Plan and what Chris was talking about regarding reactors for habitat or settlement power and energy. Don't miss what Chris said about Mars Direct in his response. Hint: He said what he and his company were referencing was very similar to what Bob proposed in Mars Direct.
Ft. Worth John called to talk about past experience with space nuclear power on board and rocket crashes, in particular the one in Canada. Chris talked about that accident as did I so don't miss what was said about it and why it was likely that the US got so deeply involved in the cleanup and the costs for the cleanup across the border. We also talked about the Russian crash in S. America. Chris provided some interesting stats for us to consider about what the US had done with RTGs and the Soviets then Russians had done with actual reactors on rockets. John then asked our guest about Vasimir. Here, Chris had much to say so don't miss our Vasimir discussion.
The NASA Kilopower experiments were discussed as was the recent Space Show program on that topic. Chris mentioned the reactor design by his company, the Pylon Reactor Design and talked about first generation, second generation, and then eventually getting to third generation hardware. He said he preferred and supported evolutionary development. Don't miss how he explained the three different stages and generations.
Listener Shawn sent in note asking about nuclear policy, fear and advocacy. Chris said it was more supportive and bipartisan than the listener thought and spent several minutes with us validating this opinion and perspective. Don't miss it as it was very informative. Our listener wanted to know about advanced style space reactors such as those based on thorium or something else. Again, don't miss what our guest said about various kinds of reactor possibilities for space and why or why not.
Marshall called to start off the second segment. His primary question was based on wanting to know if putting a reactor on the Moon was legal, or for that matter on an asteroid or even Mars. This turned into a very interesting but somewhat short discussion which was informative and at times surprising. Don't miss it. Next, Chris introduced us to their reactor fuel of choice, silicon carbide. He spent time discussing this particular nuclear fuel with its pluses and minuses but he also spoke about other nuclear reactor fuels. Be sure to listen to all of this as the fuel choice will be critical for space reactors. This led us to start asking our guest multiple questions about timelines.
I asked Chris about their nuclear reactor terrestrial plans for Canadian Arctic Circle Villages as Chris had spoken to me earlier about the plan plus he talked about it at his Mars Society talk. Listen to their terrestrial plans because it is through terrestrial success with their small nuclear reactor that they plan on opening a pathway to space. I asked him many questions about this approach and the pathway to space so let us know what you think after you hear the discussion. Please post your comments and suggestions on our blog for this show.
Testing their space nuclear reactor came up as Chris was asked how it could be tested. He talked about the two options which included testing it in space and testing it on the ground. Despite ground testing challenges, he thought ground testing would be best. Listen to how he suggested that might be carried out. Again, let us know your thoughts on this with your blog comments.
In my customary way, I asked Chris for his action path to seeing this reactor deployed in space. He talked about near term buy-in from key people such has Bezos or Musk. In addition, he talked about getting their message, concept, and ideas out to the public, speaking at conferences and the like. Before we ended the show, a Los Angeles listener suggested using one of their small reactors to separate California cities and jurisdictions from the costs and politics of our highly charged environment and energy market. Chris did not think that was doable and I agreed with him but do listen to the idea from the listener and what both Chris and I had to say about it. Before we ended the program, Chris was asked for the size of the footprint his reactor took up when deployed at a village in Canada's northern frontier regions. Two final questions came in. I asked about security for the reactor against terrorism and Esther asked if gravity was needed for the reactor to work in space. Listen to what Chris said regarding each question.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Morrison through me or some of the documents he has posted on the blog plus he did give out an address during the program.