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Russia Withholding Plutonium NASA Needs for Deep Space Exploration
Space News ^ | 12/11/2009 | Brian Berger

Posted on 12/11/2009 11:50:12 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld

Russia has reneged on an agreement to deliver a total of 10 kilograms of plutonium-238 to the United States in 2010 and 2011 and is insisting on a new deal for the costly material vital to NASA’s deep space exploration plans.

The move follows the U.S. Congress’ denial of President Barack Obama’s request for $30 million in 2010 to permit the Department of Energy to begin the painstaking process of restarting domestic production of plutonium-238. Bringing U.S. nuclear laboratories back on line to produce the isotope is expected to cost at least $150 million and take six years to seven years from the time funding is approved.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a House Appropriations Committee member whose district is home to NASA’s planetary science-focused Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Space News that Russia’s decision to withhold the promised plutonium is “certainly a concern” considering that the United States now will not be spending any money before 2011 to restart its own production.

“Certainly, among other things, it would have helped our negotiating posture had funding been included and Russia could see that we were determined to move forward on our own,” Schiff said.

NASA for decades has relied on plutonium-238 to fuel long-lasting spacecraft batteries known as radioisotope power systems that transform heat from the decaying plutonium into electricity. The Pluto-bound New Horizons probe was launched in 2006 with 11 kilograms of the material onboard, and the Mars Science Laboratory rover will carry 3.5 kilograms when it launches in late 2011.

The United States stopped producing plutonium-238 in the late 1980s. While U.S. nuclear laboratories remain able to process and package the material for use in radioisotope power systems, the Department of Energy has been meeting NASA’s demand from a dwindling stockpile supplemented by periodic purchases from Russia’s shrinking supply.

(Excerpt) Read more at spacenews.com ...


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Russia; Testing
KEYWORDS: christianright; departmentofenergy; doe; jpl; nasa; nuclearlaboratories; plutonium; plutonium238; rtg; russia; science; space; spaceexploration; spacenews; technical

1 posted on 12/11/2009 11:50:12 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld
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2 posted on 12/11/2009 11:55:25 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("We will either find a way, or make one."Hannibal/Carthaginian Military Commander)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Nothing to fear, Zero’s earmarked $50 billion to build windmills in the desert - which are so much better than modern power systems.


3 posted on 12/11/2009 11:56:53 PM PST by eclecticEel (The Most High rules in the kingdom of men ... and sets over it the basest of men.)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Ah, our ally, Russia. Never was, never will be, at least not in our lifetime.

The key lesson for the US is always make sure you can produce what you need domestically. We almost got caught in the Rhodesia chrome shortage in the 70’s/80’s which would have forced us to rely on Brezhnev/Andropov, et al for our supply of high quality chrome.

Mugabe makes millions on chrome ore exports while he kills his people by the thousands.

Good thinking, US.


4 posted on 12/12/2009 12:02:12 AM PST by ToTheMax
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To: KevinDavis

Ping


5 posted on 12/12/2009 12:04:13 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("We will either find a way, or make one."Hannibal/Carthaginian Military Commander)
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To: sonofstrangelove

The Mars Science Laboratory, nicknamed Curiosity, is a bigger more capable upgrade over the solar-powered rovers (MERs Spirit and Opportunity) on Mars for the past 5 years. It would be a shame if Plutonium shortage delayed the MSL mission, as Mars launch windows come only every 2 years.


6 posted on 12/12/2009 12:12:49 AM PST by Dagnabitt (What (child) would Mohammad do?)
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To: Dagnabitt

I agree.


7 posted on 12/12/2009 12:14:48 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("We will either find a way, or make one."Hannibal/Carthaginian Military Commander)
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BTW-Most RTGs use Pu238 which decays with a half-life of 87.7 years


8 posted on 12/12/2009 12:15:23 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("We will either find a way, or make one."Hannibal/Carthaginian Military Commander)
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To: sonofstrangelove
Bringing U.S. nuclear laboratories back on line to produce the isotope is expected to cost at least $150 million and take six years to seven years from the time funding is approved.

yea, that's doesn't have strategic impact. nah....

9 posted on 12/12/2009 12:16:12 AM PST by sten
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To: sonofstrangelove

IIRC, (and maybe I do not), we made this in breeder reactors back when. Might be time to dust off some old blueprints...


10 posted on 12/12/2009 12:16:59 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: ToTheMax
Ah, our ally, Russia. Never was, never will be [...]

In this case Russian businessmen's skills (and the will to use them) exceeded those of their teachers (the USA.) In a truly capitalist manner they noticed a weakness in the other guy's position and immediately exploited it:

“Certainly, among other things, it would have helped our negotiating posture had funding been included and Russia could see that we were determined to move forward on our own,”

Amazing insight, that, considering that not every country on the planet can make Pu(238) and the stuff costs real money. A single source supplier can wring you dry in no time.

11 posted on 12/12/2009 12:17:30 AM PST by Greysard
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To: sonofstrangelove

I wonder what the Russians intend to use it for, instead. Why are they conducting missile tests?


12 posted on 12/12/2009 12:24:54 AM PST by ronnyquest (That's what governments are for: to get in a man's way.)
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To: ronnyquest

In a fission nuclear reactor, uranium-238 can be used to breed plutonium-239, which itself can be used in a nuclear weapon or as a reactor fuel source. Maybe they are using it for military use for new warheads.


13 posted on 12/12/2009 12:27:18 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("We will either find a way, or make one."Hannibal/Carthaginian Military Commander)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Exactly my point.


14 posted on 12/12/2009 1:08:41 AM PST by ronnyquest (That's what governments are for: to get in a man's way.)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Maybe we could buy some from Iran.


15 posted on 12/12/2009 1:23:06 AM PST by Rocky (Obama's ego: The "I's" have it.)
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To: sten
"Bringing U.S. nuclear laboratories back on line to produce the isotope is expected to cost at least $150 million and take six years to seven years from the time funding is approved."

Well, math is not my strong suit.... but isn't that $150 million about .02% of the money they threw away on their so called 'stimulus plan'?

16 posted on 12/12/2009 3:20:54 AM PST by LegendHasIt
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To: eclecticEel

“Nothing to fear, Zero’s earmarked $50 billion to build windmills in the desert - which are so much better than modern power systems.”

And these will work until the wind speed reaches 25mph and are then forced to shut down lest they exceed their design specs. Still better, the enviros are fighting hard to stop any construction of transmission lines for power which cannot be stored.

Gotta love the Hussein - he really has vision!

P-238 is so yesterday...


17 posted on 12/12/2009 4:16:31 AM PST by PIF
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To: ronnyquest

“I wonder what the Russians intend to use it for, instead”

They are designing reactors for deep space exploration. P-238 will probably play a large role.

We’ve got wind mills and solar panels instead...


18 posted on 12/12/2009 4:19:41 AM PST by PIF
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To: sonofstrangelove

Can’t we just ask the Iranians to borrow a cup or two of theirs?


19 posted on 12/12/2009 4:49:35 AM PST by Yo-Yo
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To: The SISU kid; Empireoftheatom48; Rio; Iowan; hattend; reader25; july4thfreedomfoundation; ...
)(*&^(#^$(&(^(*^&@#($^*&#$^(*@^#(*^#@(*&^@(*&^#(!*&@^#(*!@^#*!^(@*#^@#*&^*!@#^(*!@#^(*!@^#*&!@^#(*&!@^#(*&!^@#(*^@(*^



For other space news go to: http://www.spacetoday.net
For a list of Private Space Companies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_private_spaceflight_companies


20 posted on 12/12/2009 6:37:17 AM PST by KevinDavis (Can't Stop the Signal!)
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To: sonofstrangelove
WTF!!

where is OUR plutonium???

American idiots who voted in the idiots in Congress and the Kenyan worm is in the process of performing a national self castration.......

Lock and Load Patriots...this is going to be messy.

21 posted on 12/12/2009 6:48:14 AM PST by Vaquero (BHO....'The Pretenda from Kenya')
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To: AdmSmith; Berosus; bigheadfred; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; ...

Hey, get off their backs — maybe they need the plutonium to give to Iran.


22 posted on 12/12/2009 7:10:34 AM PST by SunkenCiv (this space intentionally left blank)
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To: KevinDavis

We are becoming a third world country. By design.


23 posted on 12/12/2009 8:49:51 AM PST by GeronL (Join the Palin Beer Summit Putsch!!)
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To: sonofstrangelove

While this is a concern, the far larger concern is that not only can’t we readily produce our own plutonium but Obama has halted the modernization of our nuclear arsenal to make sure that it’s functional into the future.


24 posted on 12/12/2009 10:00:01 AM PST by Question_Assumptions
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To: sonofstrangelove
SOLAR WINDMILLS!
25 posted on 12/12/2009 10:42:32 AM PST by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (IN A SMALL TENT WE JUST STAND CLOSER! * IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: Smokin' Joe

You are correct — the breeder reactors at Idaho National Labs are all but ready to go. They just need permission from the feds to start production.


26 posted on 12/28/2009 3:04:44 PM PST by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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To: sonofstrangelove

My, that looks familiar! I love how the “General Purpose Heat Source” is a euphemism for “Plutonium!”


27 posted on 12/28/2009 3:05:42 PM PST by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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