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Mars Earth Space Science

Rover Fuel Came From Russian Nuke Factory, But Supplies Running Low 139

gbrumfiel writes "The Curiosity rover will soon start rolling, and when it does, it will be running on gas from a Russian weapons plant. Slate has the story of how the plutonium-238 that powers the rover came from Mayak, a Soviet-era bomb factory. Mayak made the fuel through reprocessing, a chemical process used to make nuclear warheads that also polluted the surrounding environment. After the cold war ended, the Russians sold the spare Pu-238 to NASA, which put some of it into Curiosity. Now, the Russian supply is running low and NASA hopes to restart Pu-238 production on U.S. soil (They're planning on making less of a mess this time)." One interesting way of dealing with nuclear waste: reprocess fuel a few times, extracting Pu-238 and friends (those pesky "have to keep waste sealed forever to prevent hyper-squirrels in the year 3,001,000 from being irradiated" elements) and launching an army of deep space probes. But then there's the waste stream from reprocessing...
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Rover Fuel Came From Russian Nuke Factory, But Supplies Running Low

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  • Homer time (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zaelath ( 2588189 ) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:22PM (#41062315)

    Homer: [reading screen] "To Start Press Any Key". Where's the ANY key?
                    I see Esk ["ESC"], Catarl ["CTRL"], and Pig-Up ["PGUP"]. There
                    doesn't seem to be any ANY key. Woo! All this computer hacking
                    is making me thirsty. I think I'll order a TAB. [presses TAB
                    key] time for that now, the computer's starting.
                      [reading screen slowly] "Check core temperature, yes slash no."
                    [types] Yes.
                    "Core temperature normal." Hmph. Not too shabby.
                    "Vent radioactive gas." [types] NO.
                    "Venting prevents explosi-on." Heeheee...whoa, this is hard.
                    Where's my Tab? Okay, then, [types] YES, vent the stupid gas.
                      [Cut to a farmer tending his corn. The gas release blows away
                    part of the crop.]
    Farmer: Oh, no! The corn. Paul Newman's gonna have my legs broke.

  • by kdogg73 ( 771674 ) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:37PM (#41062509) Homepage

    [referring to the Curiosity rover]
    Reuters [looks through a camcorder] This is heavy-duty, Doc. This is great. Uh, does it run, like, on regular unleaded gasoline?
    NASA Scientist: Unfortunately, no. It requires something with a little more kick. Plutonium.
    Reuters: Um, plutonium. Wait a minute. Are...
    [lowers the camcorder]
    Reuters: Are you telling me that this sucker is nuclear?
    NASA Scientist: Hey, hey, hey! Keep rolling. Keep rolling there.
    [The reporter raises the camcorder]
    NASA Scientist: No, no, no, no, no, this sucker's electrical, but I need a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need.
    Reuters: Doc, you don't just walk into a store and-and buy plutonium. Did you rip that off?
    NASA Scientist: Of course. From a group of Soviet nationalists. They wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and, in turn, gave them a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts. Come on! Let's get you a radiation suit. We must prepare to reload.

  • Re:What!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by macshome ( 818789 ) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:58PM (#41062711) Homepage
    No, no... It's because we've now given the Martians what they need to make PU-238 space modulators.
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Funny)

    by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:12PM (#41062861)

    We should have declared Mars a nuclear free zone when we had the chance!

  • by rve ( 4436 ) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:27PM (#41063533)

    Already, three major cities in Japan have been turned into an uninhabitable
    nuclear [] wasteland [], where no life can exist for millions of years, and you want to continue this trend? Already, Europeans have done the right thing and are starting to go along in banning radiation and nuclear. Germany is closing all its existing reactors. Do you want to be worse than Germany?

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Monday August 20, 2012 @11:48PM (#41064103) Journal

    there's a big difference between the 238 and 239

    1 ?

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser