U.S. President Donald Trump signed a directive on the use of nuclear power to promote U.S. leadership in space, a document released Wednesday by the White House press office.
The so-called “Sixth Space Policy Directive” refers to the development and use of Space Nuclear Power Plants (SNPPs) in lunar exploration and deep space missions. According to the document, nuclear power plants are applicable when other sources of energy, such as sunlight or chemical fuels, are insufficient.
“The ability to safely and permanently utilize NES systems is vital to maintaining and advancing U.S. dominance and strategic leadership in space,” the document states.
The president ordered the creation of capabilities to develop uranium fuel that could be used on the surface of the Moon and other space objects, as well as a demonstration of nuclear power plant capabilities for later use in Martian missions.
“The United States will adhere to safety principles … in the development and use of nuclear power plants in accordance with relevant federal law and international obligations,” the document said.
As NASA Chief Jim Bridenstein said in reference to Trump’s executive order, the directive gives impetus to NASA’s efforts to develop “affordable, safe and reliable nuclear systems, including technologies that can power other worlds and power future manned missions to Mars.”
Bridenstein recalled that NASA is currently working with the Department of Energy to develop technology to generate nuclear power on the surface of the moon, with a demonstration expected later this decade.