NASA seeks ideas for building a nuclear reactor on the moon

Keith Ridler
Associated Press

Boise, Idaho — If anyone has a good idea on how to build a nuclear fission power plant on the moon, the U.S. government wants to hear about it.

NASA and the nation’s top federal nuclear research lab on Friday put out a request for proposals for a fission surface power system.

NASA is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to establish a sun-independent power source for missions to the moon by the end of the decade.

The moon sets over the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

If successful, the next objective would be Mars.

Submitted plans for the fission surface power system should include a uranium-fueled reactor core, a system to convert the nuclear power into usable energy, a thermal management system to keep the reactor cool, and a distribution system providing no less than 40 kilowatts of continuous electric power for 10 years in the lunar environment.

Additionally, when launched from Earth to the moon, it should fit inside a 12-foot (4-meter) diameter cylinder that's 18 feet (6 meters) long. It should not weigh more than 13,200 pounds (6,000 kilograms).

The proposal requests are for an initial system design and must be submitted by Feb. 19.