back to article Russia plans to put a nuclear reactor on the Moon – with China's help

Roscosmos and China are considering putting a nuclear reactor on the Moon, according to the Russian space agency's boss. Moscow mouthpiece Tass states the mission would be automated and have a 2033-2035 time frame. Roscosmos boss Yury Borisov claimed the technology necessary for the mission was almost ready and told the World …

  1. cyberdemon Silver badge
    Mushroom

    In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

    I find this extremely worrying.. It would be very easy to launch nuclear weapons from the Moon to hit anywhere on Earth with no possible defence.. It would be the ultimate doomsday weapon. I can't see how we could trust anyone, never mind Russia and China to operate a reactor on the Moon (out of reach of IAEA observers, for sure) without the possibility or probability of it being used as a lunar weapons factory..

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

      Why would you hoist nukes up there to fire them down again, when you can just throw rocks ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

      Please tell me this is a parody post, right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

        post-parody post?

      2. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

        Probably not. This is actually quite insightful compared to what you usually get when the word "nuclear" comes up.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

      It would be vastly more costly to lug a nuke to the Moon instead of parking it in Earth orbit (probably not LEO either, but much higher up).

      And it's not just getting it to the Moon, it's all the infrastructure that would need to exist on-site to make it launcheable. Which means landing a whole lot of stuff beforehand that is specifically destined to launch a nuke. The kind of thing that would be quite visible, what with all the telescopes we have on Earth and in orbit, for any expert that would care to check out the installation. Which would lead to diplomatic issues that would likely make the Cuban missile crisis look like a stroll in the park in summer.

      Not going to happen, is what I'm saying.

    4. Snake Silver badge

      Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

      "It would be very easy to launch nuclear weapons from the Moon to hit anywhere on Earth with no possible defence"

      Well, not exactly: the moon is 384,000 km (nominal) away from Earth. ICBM's have a typical speed of 7-8 km/s; Apollo 11's out-obital speed was 25,000 mph (40,250 kph).

      Divide the two and you get...9.54 minutes to get a fully-accelerated missile from the Moon to Earth. Add in acceleration off the lunar surface and leaving the Moon's gravity well, figure 10 minutes.

      That's 10 minutes to launch an intercept. That's a pretty good reaction time if you are paying attention to the fact that it might happen.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

        I think you might need to look at that arithmetic again (10 minutes Moon to Earth?) but at whatever speed it isn't going to hit the Earth. It's going to hit the Earth's atmosphere.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

          Yer right, 10 HOURS at max velocity. Forgot that 'h'! My bad!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: In combination with Russia's recent promise "we will never put nuclear weapons in space"

            I recognise your name, you did the calcs for the Beagle lander...

  2. User McUser
    Headmaster

    A sample of what now?

    [...] landing on the Moon and sending a sample of lunar soil back to Earth.

    The moon is covered in regolith, not soil.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: A sample of what now?

      Indeed. And it isn't soft soil either. It's more like volcanic dust, with jagged edges all over the place that find their way into joints and wear them down way faster than just dust would.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: A sample of what now?

        For me the largest issue is safely getting the nuclear fuel up to the new Moon reactor in the first place.

        Rockets aren't exactly the bee's knees for reliability. What happens to the fuel container in during an "rapid unscheduled disassembly"?? Where does THAT end up?

        1. cookieMonster Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: A sample of what now?

          Kazakhstan ??

        2. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: A sample of what now?

          The Apollo nuclear fuel was in a re-entry capsule on the outside of the Lunar Module. It was designed to withstand an escape-velocity re-entry without a problem.

          It was also supposed to withstand the Saturn V having an Earth-shattering kaboom.

          One consideration when Apollo 13 came back was pointing the LM to land in the deepest water possible.

          To use it, the astronaut hinged it down, unscrewed the top and used a special tool to extract the fuel from the re-entry capsule and place it in the thermoelectric generator.

          1. Catkin Silver badge

            Re: A sample of what now?

            The ALSEP was much nastier. It was a plutonium-powered RTG.

        3. Catkin Silver badge

          Re: A sample of what now?

          It get scattered over a wide area but a brand new reactor isn't too bad if the fuel is fresh enriched (from ore) uranium because it's the transuranics that are highly toxic and those will only be present in reprocessed fuel. Uranium is just a heavy metal so, while it's not great, it's actually less toxic than lead and the latter is vomited into the air by just about every piston-driven aircraft (the TEL ban for aviation still hasn't been implemented, but they're working on it).

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: A sample of what now?

          "Rockets aren't exactly the bee's knees for reliability."

          A production rocket blowing up before reaching orbit is pretty rare these days. There's only been one human rated/crewed failure during launch and only two human rated/crewed failures during re-entry. (Soyuz 11 may count as a 3rd, but that happened during undocking).

  3. Jumbotron64
    Mushroom

    I smell a reboot

    Here’s the pitch Mr. Netflix executive…..

    Picture an inhabited base on the moon. Watch NASA designed spacecraft come and go. Oh no…minimal CGI as we will hire Christopher Nolan to do the pilot episode and rotate people in like the guy who directed “Moon”. Ok…ok…now the secret unbeknownst to the crew of the moon base with the exception of a Russian and Chinese spy in said base station is that the largest pile of volatile nuclear waste in the Solar System is on the other side of the moon. The base station has lost several crew of the “Sikorsky Sky Crane” style NASA designed space craft flying unknowingly into said radioactive area. The secret is revealed and the race is on to control the problem. TOO LATE !! The whole pile goes critical and BOOM !! The moon is hurtled out of orbit into a neighboring mini black hole also not seen before. And we’ll call it….SPACE: 2099

  4. I like fruits
    Trollface

    The bigger news here

    People missed much larger news here - Russia still plans to exist in 2025! Wow, that's bold!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The bigger news here

      Actually Yury and Puty are figuring that the moon might be the only exile safe from polonium elevenses when the next iteration of the Cheka comes for them.

      Certainly Chuckiestan is not looking so safe for russian emigres these days.

  5. sarusa Silver badge
    Devil

    How very Orc

    It would be extremely Russian to just blow the moon up because it's pretty and they can only hate and destroy nice things.

    (Yeah, I know, this couldn't actually blow the moon up, so just a start)

  6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    The final paragraph of the article says it.

    Just why would the Chinese want to share with the Russians? Their space program seems to be doing fairly well as it is. Whether it's simply "standing on the shoulders of giants" or stealing what they want to help kickstart the technology doesn't really matter, they are doing it. I'd much rather hope they stop the sabre rattling though. I do worry they might decide to "do a Putin" if or when they feel the time is right. Xi seems to be going against Chinese tradition and be in a hurry to immortalise himself.

    1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

      Re: The final paragraph of the article says it.

      Yep. Chinese tech is ahead of the Russians, and Chinese GDP is ten times more. The Chinese really don't need any help from Russia.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Russian design vs safety

    Chernobyl on the Moon. What could go wrong?

  8. jetjet

    What that reactor will work with?! They will neet to lift a river over there as well.

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