Russia plans nuke plant on the moon - GulfToday

Russia plans nuke plant on the moon

AI generative image.

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Yuri Borisov, head of Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is quoted by news agency Reuters as saying on Tuesday that plans are afoot to build a nuclear plant on the moon to support a lunar colony, in collaboration with China. This is supposed to begin at the turn of 2033-35.

This reads like a page from a Cold War thriller, which the Americans and West are bound to see as a sinister plan on the part of Russia and China to dominate the moon. There is as yet no official confirmation from China of the collaboration with Russia. China plans to send its manned moon mission by 2035. And Russia is trying to get back on to the lunar trail after decades. Its Luna 25 mission last year was a failure.

According to Borisov, it would not be possible to use solar panels to generate power on the lunar surface, and therefore nuclear power becomes a necessary option. There are huge technological challenges but Borisov seems to indicate that many of them have been solved, and the issue is to create a cargo capsule to travel between the earth and moon. And also, how to cool the nuclear reactor.

There has already been talk of powering the space flights through nuclear power even as there is a possibility of using atomic power to run submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines are a military reality. Whether this could be extended to space vehicles remains an issue. Right now the question is not so much about nuclear-powered space flights but of setting up a nuclear plant on the lunar surface which could support a human colony on the moon.

It appears to open a new horizon, but there are as many dangers involved. The mishaps at nuclear plants on earth are a clear indication that things could misfire on the moon and in space. And the major problem is whether any one country or a group of countries should have a monopoly on using nuclear power in space.

The Russians fear that the Americans are raising the bogey of Russian President Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons in the space and to use it as a pretext to force Russia to enter nuclear arms reduction talks. Putin has withdrawn Russia from strategic arms talks negotiations. Nuclear power plants on the moon is a different ball game, and the Russian idea is to keep it as a separate question.

It is understood that outer space is not meant to create rights for individual nations. And it also needs that all the countries have to cooperate with each other. The International Space Station, which had come into existence at the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been a good example of international cooperation for a quarter century.

In spite of the war in Ukraine, Russian cosmonauts are working along with astronauts from America and other countries on the ISS. But Russians are to pull out of the ISS by the end of 2024. And it is likely that the Russian lunar and space missions will be tied up with that of China. But there is need for an explicit global agreement on the space and lunar missions as there is one about the research and exploration in Antarctica.

The stepped up space activity on the part of many countries is interesting in many ways. It is no more a monopoly of the superpowers any more as it was in the last century. And there is also the common aspiration that human beings need to look out to other planets, not to conquer and colonise, but for ways of improving lives of human beings here on earth. The theme of the common destiny of humanity remains a potential binding factor.

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