Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 14 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/16/20

The Push for Nuclear Power in Space -- and Musk Wants to Nuke Mars

By       (Page 1 of 4 pages)   1 comment
Become a Premium Member Would you like to know how many people have read this article? Or how reputable the author is? Simply sign up for a Advocate premium membership and you'll automatically see this data on every article. Plus a lot more, too.
Author 14729
Message Karl Grossman
Become a Fan
  (7 fans)

SpaceX Demo-1 Preflight
SpaceX Demo-1 Preflight
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Last week a SpaceX rocket exploded in a fireball at the SpaceX site in Texas. "Fortunately," reported Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News, "no one was aboard." Click Here

But what if nuclear materials had been aboard?

The nuclear space issue is one I got into 35 years ago when I learned from reading a U.S. Department of Energy news letter about two space shuttles, one the Challenger which was to be launched the following year with 24.2 pounds of plutonium aboard.

Click Here

The plutonium the shuttles were to carry aloft in 1986 was to be used as fuel in radioisotope thermoelectric generators RTGs that were to provide a small amount of electric power for instruments on space probes to be released from the shuttles once the shuttles achieved orbit.

The plutonium-fueled RTGs had nothing to do with propulsion.

I used the U.S. Freedom of Information Act to ask what would be the consequences of an accident on launch, in the lower or upper atmosphere and what about the dispersal of deadly plutonium. A few years earlier, I wrote Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power, so I was well familiar with plutonium, considered the most lethal radioactive substance.

For 10 months there was a stonewall of challenges to my FOIA request by DOE and NASA. Finally, I got the information, heavily redacted, with the claim that the likelihood of a shuttle accident releasing plutonium was "small."

Said one document: "The risk would be small due to the high reliability inherent in the design of the Space Shuttle." NASA put the odds of a catastrophic shuttle accident at one-in-100,000. .animatedsoftware.com/cassini/kg9709tw.htm

Then, on January 28, 1986 the Challenger blew up.

It was on its next mission in May 1986that it was slated to have a plutonium-fueled RTG aboard.

From a pay phone in an appliance store -amid scores of TV sets with that horrible video of the Challenger exploding I called The Nation magazine and asked the folks there whether they knew that the next launch of the Challenger was to be a nuclear mission. They didn't.

They had me write an editorial that appeared on The Nation's front page titled "The Lethal Shuttle." It began, "Far more than seven people could have died if the explosion that destroyed Challenger had occurred during the next launch""

And I got deeper and deeper into the nukes-in-space issue authoring two books, one The Wrong Stuff, presenting three TV documentaries, writing many hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and speaking widely on the issue.

NASA, incidentally, later in 1986, drastically increased the odds of a catastrophic shuttle accident to one-in-76. It turned out the one-in-100,000 estimate was based on dubious guessing.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

 

Rate It | View Ratings

Karl Grossman Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up (www.envirovideo.com)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

New Book Concludes: Chernobyl death toll: 985,000, mostly from cancer

Siemens' Abandoning Nuclear Power

Murdoch Media Empire: A Journalistic Travesty

Fukushima: A Month of Media Disinformation

The Cancer Epidemic: Its Environmental Causes

What Could Truly End the Space Program: A Nuclear Disaster Overhead

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: