The Y-12 National Security Complex is taking their uranium expertise to the next level—outer space.
The NNSA Production Office (NPO) at Y-12 struck an agreement earlier this year with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to support the design of a small nuclear-powered reactor with the potential to lead to small fission power reactors for future space exploration missions.
For the first phase of the project, Y-12 will research materials and manufacturing processes for a physics demonstration of a kilowatt-range nuclear reactor, known as project Kilopower, using an enriched uranium-molybdenum metallic fuel core and a lithium-hydride shield. The Kilopower concept was a 2013 R&D 100 Award winner for proof-of-principle experiments performed at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center in Nevada led by Los Alamos National Laboratory in collaboration with NASA Glenn and National Security Technologies.
“Science missions are seeking greater power and functionality,” explained Lee Mason, chief of the Thermal Energy Conversion Branch at Glenn. “We’re planning to demonstrate the technology in a ground test using a prototype U-235 reactor core.” [Read more…]