Microreactors To Power Moonbases, A New Study Starts In Italy

Designing a nuclear microreactor to power moonbases and support further space colonisation – this is the mission of the cooperation agreement signed last December by ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI – Italian Space Agency).

The agreement has been presented in the framework of the Second National Space Day, celebrated on 16th December 2022.

ENEA and ASI aim to explore innovative solutions to build a Space Nuclear Reactor (SNR) by sharing their research skills and multipurpose facilities, like the ENEA research centres in Bologna and Brasimone (where the Italian Agency is also developing Generation IV reactors’ prototypes together with newcleo).

Over the next 15 months, ENEA and ASI will outline the characteristics of the Italian SNR, identify the potential operational scenarios (Moon, Mars, and deep space exploration), and the critical technologies, in order to finally elaborate an R&D roadmap for the next steps.

According to ASI, this technology could help solve energy problems in space travel, exploration of other planets and in deep space.

Having a compact, modular, reliable, small-sized reactor capable of protecting human life in an inhospitable environment would constitute a great potential for exploration.

Furthermore, a microreactor would allow a reduction in production costs, construction times, and dimensions that would enhance its extended use in different scenarios without transport difficulties.

Read the full ENEA Press Release (in Italian).

Last September, the European Nuclear Society High Scientific Council launched its Position Paper “Nuclear Energy for Space Exploration“, highly appreciated by the scientific community.

The Position Paper has been presented at a special event, organised in Brussels under the Czech EU Presidency and in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, which involved high-level stakeholders and experts, EU institutions, academia, research institutes, and space industry representatives.

The event “Nuclear Energy for Space Exploration” has been recorded and is available on ENS YouTube Channel.

Nuclear Energy for Space Exploration