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A review of nuclear electric power

22 Sep 2016, 20:52 UTC
A review of nuclear electric power
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This is a subject that's been stewing for a while now. I often see debates in comment sections over whether or not nuclear electric power is feasible in space. Only rarely do those arguing hold the same assumptions about what nuclear power actually means. As a result, these debates rarely convince anyone of anything beyond the stubborn natures of their opponents. The goal of this post is to briefly cover the range of commercial, military and scientific nuclear power systems ranging from a few kilowatts to over a gigawatt. I will follow up the (hopefully) useful background information in a later post with some fanciful projections and my usual call for unlikely investments in space. Read on after the break so you can be armed with facts for your next debate thread.Very briefly:Nuclear energy is produced by the fission (splitting) of certain heavy atoms. This fission produces radiation which becomes heat which is then turned into electricity. The leftover heat and spent nuclear fuel must be dealt with. Shielding must be provided.Radiation I won't get too deep into this subject, but there are several types of radiation. All of these types create challenges for material designs, since most materials become ...

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