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NASA Will Put a Nuclear Reactor on the Moon by 2030

Written by Luke Sweeney
Posted November 29, 2021

NASA just officially committed itself to 10 years and countless billions in funding to achieve one simple dream: beating China. 

On paper, the actual purpose of the mission is probably something like “expanding mankind’s horizons” or “mining valuable resources,” but I think we all know how this story goes. 

It hasn’t been in the news much, but last year China’s space program started arousing suspicion with a few secretive experiments. 

Scientists at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology were reportedly running some unusual tests on moon rock samples — tests that point to only one thing:

China wants to run a nuclear reactor on the moon.

And if China wants it, I’m sure you can guess who else wants it. NASA would never risk the humiliation of losing a space milestone to another country. 

From what I’ve heard, there’s still some residual tension left over from that embarrassing loss to Sputnik. 

So to make sure that never happens again, NASA is more than willing to kick off another decade-long race to the moon. And the first critical step is designing a power source. 

This time, the payout will include much more than bragging rights and a flag stuck in the ground. 

It Sounds Like a Supervillain Plot, but It’s Real

The phrase “nuclear reactor on the moon” sounds more like a cartoon plotline than a NASA mission, but reality is often stranger than fiction. 

Both the U.S. and China are hoping to create some type of settlement on the moon within the next decade, and there’s still one issue yet to be solved: a power source. 

Fossil fuels are too expensive to launch from Earth, even with SpaceX dragging down the cost of flights.

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Wind and hydro are also out, for obvious reasons. 

Solar power is a good option, but dust and the moon's rotation will cause the same problems as they do on Earth. Astronauts stranded thousands of miles from their home planet don't want to sit and wait for hours for the lights to come back on. 

To provide steady power in any environment, just as they do here on the ground, NASA is planning to use specially designed small modular reactors (SMRs). There’s just one catch: The units will need to be able to survive the most hostile environment humans have ever experienced.

All in all, this is a brilliant move on NASA’s part. By waving the carrot in front of the world, a huge number of companies will start racing to develop the best SMR. And the winner will score a coveted multibillion-dollar contract from the U.S. government. 

But all this money being thrown around got me thinking. What exactly is making NASA so willing to cut this blank check? I'm as big a fan of space as the next guy, but establishing a moon base doesn't exactly seem like an urgent priority. 

Well, there’s more to it than simple rivalry with China. It involves billions and possibly trillions of the only thing the U.S. cares about more than winning a race. 

Surprise! The Answer Is Money

OK, I admit that isn't much of a surprise. It wouldn't exactly be wise to spend billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours with no chance of a payoff. 

Remember that Chinese lunar rock study I mentioned? Well, it included a few very interesting tests. One analysis was looking for an extremely rare isotope called helium-3, a nuclear fuel that is almost nonexistent here on Earth. 

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Since the atmosphere-less moon is constantly bombarded by radiation, researchers predicted its surface would be chock-full of helium-3. And this study just proved that the moon’s surface is covered in millions of tons of the stuff. 

That's particularly important if you’re a fan of limitless clean energy. According to nuclear physicists’ calculations, just 25 tons of this super-dense fuel could power the entire U.S. for a year. 

The only problem so far has been finding a way to transport this material back to Earth. It’s not even remotely feasible to ship it back, so for now it remains just outside our reach. 

That is, until NASA decided to up the ante. Building an SMR that can harness the fuel on the moon would provide astronauts with limitless power — and luckily for the nuclear industry, NASA is ready to bankroll the entire development process. 

That means SMRs are about to get a huge boost from one of the most deep-pocketed donors on the planet. The U.S. government offering endless funding is a bullish move if I’ve ever seen one. 

Right now, whoever can come up with the best design will win the grand prize. 

No numbers have been announced yet, but last time this happened, NASA dropped somewhere around $80 billion getting the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. 

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That’s just shy of $300 billion by today’s standards. Who knows how far it will be willing to go this time. 

Our team over at Energy Investor has been meticulously combing through every nuclear outfit in America to gauge who has the best chances at winning the jackpot. 

And to be honest, I think we’ve already found who will take the gold.  

Most of you have already been rewarded by the investment research my colleague Keith Kohl has done on the future of nuclear fuel. 

If you haven’t yet had the chance to take advantage of his latest nuclear stock, you absolutely have to check this one out for yourself.

To your wealth,

Luke Sweeney
Contributor, Energy and Capital

Luke’s technical know-how combined with an insatiable scientific curiosity has helped uncover some of our most promising leads in the tech sector. He has a knack for breaking down complicated scientific concepts into an easy-to-digest format, while still keeping a sharp focus on the core information. His role at Angel is simple: transform piles of obscure data into profitable investment leads. When following our recommendations, rest assured that a truly exhaustive amount of research goes on behind the scenes..

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