23 August 2002
Comment on:
Moon Seen As Nuclear Waste Repository
(Yahoo! News)
From: Karl Johanson
karljohanson@shaw.ca

As interesting an idea as that is, it would get a 'no' vote from me. It's one thing applying a decent heat shield / re-entry shell on 70Kgs of ceramic PuO2, as for Cassini's RTG plutonium (even at that, some people thought it inadequate). Shielding 1,000's of Kgs of spent fuel would be another thing altogether. While I don't think the re-entry and possible burn-up of tonnes of aged spent fuel would be apocalyptic, the danger is too high to bother with the idea. Launch failure rates are still significant. Not to mention, if we're going to the moon, it might as well be with scientists & remote probes. Why waste the launch hardware?

I doubt the idea would ever be taken seriously anyway.

As a side note; the Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 & 17 landers brought Plutonium oxide powered RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) to the moon, to power seismic stations. I think around 4 kilograms of PuO2 each. (Apollo 11 had an RHU (Radioisotope Heating Unit) to keep it's seismic montior from cooling too much, but no RTG.) So we already have sent some nuclear waste to the moon. The thermocouples in the RTGs have declined in efficiency significantly, but around 80% of the Pu238 is still there & usable should some later lunar mission bring new thermocouples.

Karl Johanson

 



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