9 February 2011
INL’s Plutonium-fueled Mars Hoppers headed for space?
From: James Powell
Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free
Press Release


(IDAHO FALLS, ID) – Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free (KYNF) has been monitoring the legislative push for nuclear batteries in space for the last five years.  Why?  Because as efficient and innovative as these futuristic batteries seem, they are essentially putting nuclear material into our atmosphere.  In addition, the plutonium fuel for the batteries is slated to come from the 47-year-old Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) in Idaho, “A reactor that KYNF has been desperately trying to have evaluated by safety boards for over a decade,” says James Powell, Executive Director of KYNF.

Increasing the demand for these space batteries, Idaho National Laboratory has invented a new fleet of Mars Hoppers, which rely on the power source to hop from site to site on Mars.  The lab claims that the new nuclear-powered Hoppers are faster and more efficient than their solar-powered predecessors.

The researchers indicate that several of these nuclear powered Hoppers could travel on single space missions to Mars and deploy after landing.  Once on the surface, the Hoppers travel alone to different areas of the surface to measure things like temperature, air content and of course, they will search for water.  “It all seems very novel and great, but the fact of the matter is that we are risking our safety by putting these shuttles filled with nuclear material into our earth’s atmosphere during takeoff, and ultimately dumping nuclear material on Mars,” cites Powell. 

State University of New York Professor Karl Grossman, a long time critic of the Space Program’s plutonium battery program, notes a clear “threat to those who reside near launch sites in the event of a launch pad accident vaporizing the plutonium and it being disseminated,” adding that “if the rockets carrying these things fall back to earth and break apart and the plutonium is vaporized and spreads in that scenario, even larger numbers of people (and other living things) [will be] impacted.”

The project’s researchers do mention that ultimately the Hoppers could be removed and brought back to earth via an earthbound launch from Mars; however, the technology to launch a space mission to Earth from Mars with these Hoppers does not exist yet.  And can we imagine anyone wanting to test this non-existent technology with a ‘hot’ load of radioactive waste on board?

“This is an ill-conceived plan from the plutonium production for the batteries at ATR to the launch of this toxic fuel into space.  The Plutonium-Restart is something we have fought against in the past and it is a funding debate that likely to be brought up again during this congressional session,” remarked Powell.  KYNF called attention to the Plutonium Restart Plan included in the 111th session of congress.  The funding for the restart was ultimately pulled.

Media Contact: James Powell 307-203-2230
Executive Director
Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free
PO Box 4757 | Jackson, WY 83001
Office 307.699.5439

Follow us at: www.twitter.com/kynf

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