Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Nuclear fuel on Mars?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Posts
    261

    Nuclear fuel on Mars?

    Given we've found deposits of uranium and plutonium on our favorite rocky planet Earth, is it likely we would also find equivalent deposits on Mars which could be mined to fuel nuclear fission plants there? Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    Quote Originally Posted by Cheap Astronomy View Post
    Given we've found deposits of uranium and plutonium on our favorite rocky planet Earth, is it likely we would also find equivalent deposits on Mars which could be mined to fuel nuclear fission plants there? Thanks
    Perhaps you meant uranium and thorium? Even the longest lived isotopes of plutonium have a short half-life compared to the ~4.5 billion year age of the planets in the solar system, so there are only trace amounts of natural plutonium on (or in) Earth or other solar system planets.

    Anyway, there is evidence from gamma ray measurements and other methods for uranium and thorium in the Martian regolith. The bigger question is if there are high quality ores or if it would be in low concentrations that would take much more work to gather? I’m not a geologist, so I can’t say if the same processes as happened on Earth to concentrate uranium and thorium ores are as likely on Mars. On the other hand, there seem to be a lot of similarities in the geology so it certainly seems plausible there are some.

    I’ve previously thought about issues of building a reactor on Mars. Early small habitats likely would use a reactor shipped from Earth - unlike solar you don’t need the extra mass of power storage and you don’t need to worry about the decrease in sunlight during the occasional global storm.

    A Mars reactor would come much later for a large colony, and you would have the issues of getting and processing the ore and fueling the reactor. Requiring enrichment would again dramatically increase the difficulty so it is likely early reactor designs would be designed to use natural uranium, perhaps something similar to the CANDU reactor, or RBMK type reactors. RBMK reactors have a bad reputation (Chernobyl) but reportedly later designs were improved substantially and even models of the same era were retrofitted and procedures were put in place not to ever get one in the same state. Also, a smaller reactor typically is much easier to keep running safely.

    I believe thorium would be much harder to get started with, unless some enriched uranium is sent to Mars to put in a mixed fuel reactor.
    Last edited by Van Rijn; 2021-Oct-15 at 12:30 PM.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,464
    There may already have been a nuclear fission reactor on Mars: Evidence for a large, natural, paleo-nuclear reactor on Mars.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    From that article it sounds like it is likely there would be rich ore in some places on Mars.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    310
    are elements of different mass produced in layers in a super nova or random
    and are they then mixed in the explosion/expansions or tend to be in some order ?

    and or are like mass elements concentrated in the swirling mass that becomes a planet
    similar to a cyclotron used to concentrate U235 not totally but of increased percentages by mass ?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,464
    Quote Originally Posted by nota View Post
    are elements of different mass produced in layers in a super nova or random
    and are they then mixed in the explosion/expansions or tend to be in some order ?

    and or are like mass elements concentrated in the swirling mass that becomes a planet
    similar to a cyclotron used to concentrate U235 not totally but of increased percentages by mass ?
    Produced in layers, mixed in the explosion, sorted by volatility in the condensing nebula, then by density and chemistry in the hot condensing planet.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    20,830
    Quote Originally Posted by nota View Post
    are elements of different mass produced in layers in a super nova or random
    and are they then mixed in the explosion/expansions or tend to be in some order ?

    and or are like mass elements concentrated in the swirling mass that becomes a planet
    similar to a cyclotron used to concentrate U235 not totally but of increased percentages by mass ?
    Production of some heavy elements, like gold, silver, platinum, uranium, some others is a little unclear. It’s long generally been thought it was produced during a supernova when many neutrons strike iron nuclei, but there is now some evidence that colliding neutron stars are at least partly responsible.

    Also, there is evidence the elements making the solar system has multiple sources. Here are a couple articles:

    On the role of neutron stars -
    https://www.pnas.org/content/118/4/e2026110118

    On sources of uranium and reasons for distribution in Earth

    https://world-nuclear.org/informatio...f-uranium.aspx

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Posts
    340
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    There may already have been a nuclear fission reactor on Mars: Evidence for a large, natural, paleo-nuclear reactor on Mars.

    Grant Hutchison
    How does something become radioactive? I always thought that it was through something we did to the material that caused it. Guess I never realized we simply collected the substance and concentrated it.
    I know that I know nothing, so I question everything. - Socrates/Descartes

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    21,464
    Quote Originally Posted by DaCaptain View Post
    How does something become radioactive? I always thought that it was through something we did to the material that caused it. Guess I never realized we simply collected the substance and concentrated it.
    Supernovae and colliding neutron stars produce a lot of radioactive nuclei, by bombarding lighter nuclei with neutrons, building up heavy unstable nuclei faster than they can decay. Most of these radioactive isotopes decay very quickly back into lighter elements, but some have half-lives measured in billions of years, meaning that they can be incorporated into planets, and then turn up in the rocks. The big four such isotopes on Earth are Uranium-235, Uranium-238, Thorium-232 and Potassium-40. When they do decay, they give rise to other radioactive elements like radium, polonium and radon.
    Some radioactive elements are being continuously created by natural processes, too. It's the bombardment of our atmosphere by cosmic rays that produces Carbon-14 and Hydrogen-3 (tritium).

    So, yes, we can now make our own radioactives by deliberately bombarding stable elements with various particles, but our original understanding of radioactivity came from naturally occurring radioactives.

    Grant Hutchison
    Science Denier and Government Sponsored Propagandist. Here to help.
    Blog

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •