Broadcast 3898 Dr. Chris Morrison

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Guest:  Dr. Christopher Morrison;  Topics: Chris reviewed the nuclear space field, types of reactors, propulsion, funding, challenges, potential demos and timelines plus he talked fusion toward the end of the program. In discussing fusion, he mentioned several of the leading entrepreneurial fusion companies securing investment.

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We welcomed Chris Morrison back to the program for space nuclear power usage updates, including updates regarding progress toward nuclear space propulsion.  Toward the end of the program we reviewed fusion progress and Chris listed several of the private fusion companies securing large amounts of investment dollars. As we started the discussion, our guest said that now was very promising with lots going on regarding interest in and for space nuclear power.  He talked about congressional budget amounts up to the point of demo flights while also discussing both nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion.  Regarding the different types of reactors, he talked about funding and interest behind each type, the challenges and even demos.  You don't want to miss this early discussion which took us more than halfway through our program.  As for the part of this early discussion focusing on budgets, you want to hear how he said the funds were being divided and allocated for the different projects leading to demos.  Included in this discussion was an electrical allocation for Moon-Mars centering on just three companies. Listen for the details.  Once again our guest noted that there was good momentum for developing space nuclear propulsion this time around.   

Chris moved on to talk about DARPA and the Dept. of Defense (DoD) interest in space nuclear. He brought up the DRACO (Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations), a DARPA program in Phase 2. Chris mentioned the Dark Fission Space Systems startup by Fred Kennedy, a former Momentus executive.  Next up was the discussion on radioisotope nuclear power which our guest described in detail.  Commercial radioisotope  with plutonium 238 was even mentioned.  Our guest spent ample time talking about the applications and uses for commercial radio isotope nuclear power/propulsion plus he explained in detail why there was so much interest in it in the nuclear development and even investment community.  This was an important part of our program so be sure to catch all of it. 

Chris was asked about regulations for nuclear and private companies having access to some nuclear products, especially products used with weapons.  Chris referenced the President Trump memo of 2019 on nuclear regulation and what it did which he said was an improvement.  About this time Todd asked about the propulsion timeline. Chris responded with a short timeline update on most of the types of nuclear activity that he discussed earlier.  This led to the history question I mentioned earlier given we came very close to nuclear propulsion before we changed course.  I asked why it was taking so long since we were almost there decades ago.  Listen to what our guest had to say in responding to this question. 

Ft. Worth John called to talk about the earlier comment about the 1980 capability today. John and Chris talked about Kilopower, radioisotope power and even fusion.

The next caller was Fremont John who wanted to talk about nuclear thermal, the three companies and more.  I then asked Chris about the Canadian power and reactor project that he was working on when I first met him several years ago.  He said they were still working on it and it was still an active program for Canada.  He explained the Canadian program and how his company was participating in the competition to bring power to very remote places. 

Before ending, we did our part on fusion.  Chris spoke to the government projects around the ITER reactor work plus the entrepreneurial efforts with alternative fuels.  He suggested most of the progress seemed to be on the entrepreneurial side. He even named multiple companies securing good sums of investment for their fusion work.  As we approached the end of the show, Chris said work was still needed on nuclear propulsion but that he was sure to see it in his lifetime. I asked for his age.  33.  Yes, I believe we will have commercial nuclear propulsion in his lifetime barring an unfortunate accident or illness.  Now given my age of 76, well, I hope I see nuclear propulsion for human spaceflight in my lifetime but I must admit that each year that goes by without it, it is that much harder to remain optimistic.  Still, I think I will live to see it go commercial.  I sure hope so.

Please post your comments and questions for Dr. Morrison on our blog for this show.  You can reach Chris through me or his company website.

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24 Jul 2022 Dr. Christopher Morrison
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