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AT: Nuclear Inevitable

Countries are modeling Germany in phasing out nuclear power
Baetz 11 (Juergen, Associated Press journalist, Mar 23, [] AD: 7-8-11, jam)

BERLIN — Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done. The world's fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead. The transition was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has called a "catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions." Berlin's decision to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months for new safety checks has provided a glimpse into how Germany might wean itself from getting nearly a quarter of its power from atomic energy to none. And experts say Germany's phase-out provides a good map that countries such as the United States, which use a similar amount of nuclear power, could follow. The German model would not work, however, in countries like France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 70 percent of its power and has no intention of shifting.

There’s no momentum for nuclear space power
Rudo 3 (Brian, writer for Red Colony, Mar 5, [] AD: 7-8-11, jam)

In reality the implications were much less beneficial to mankind. With the nuclear power disasters of the twentieth century, notably Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the public has withdrawn from nuclear power. Further problems that have halted nuclear power generation have resulted from the storage of nuclear waste. Public disfavor with anything nuclear has extended itself into space. When the Cassini probe launched in 1997, its 73 pounds of plutonium sparked protests that called into question any future nuclear project in space. Protesters contended that an error in launch or an encounter with Earth later on in the voyage could result in dangerous radioactivity raining down from the sky. What the protestors failed to realize was the actual risk involved: the increase in radioactivity that would result from the destruction of Cassini would have been equivalent to a 15,000th of a normal lifetime absorption of radioactivity. There is most likely more radioactivity in a tanning booth or dental X-ray.

Uq – No Plutonium

NASA is out of plutonium – its out of alternatives

O’Neill 9 (Ian, writer @ Universe Today, 5/8/9, JPG

Decommissioning nuclear weapons is a good thing. But when our boldest space missions depend on surplus nuclear isotopes derived from weapons built at the height of the Cold War, there is an obvious problem. If we’re not manufacturing any more nuclear bombs, and we are slowly decommissioning the ones we do have, where will NASA’s supply of plutonium-238 come from? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t easy to arrive at; to start producing this isotope, we need to restart plutonium production. And buying plutonium-238 from Russia isn’t an option, NASA has already been doing that and they’re running out too… This situation has the potential of being a serious limiting factor for the future of spaceflight beyond the orbit of Mars. Exploration of the inner-Solar System should be OK, as the strength of sunlight is substantial, easily powering our robotic orbiters, probes and rovers. However, missions further afield will be struggling to collect the meagre sunlight with their solar arrays. Historic missions such as Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini and New Horizons would not be possible without the plutonium-238 pellets. So the options are stark: Either manufacture more plutonium or find a whole new way of powering our spacecraft without radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs). The first option is bound to cause some serious political fallout (after all, when there are long-standing policies in place to restrict the production of plutonium, NASA may not get a fair hearing for its more peaceful applications) and the second option doesn’t exist yet. Although plutonium-238 cannot be used for nuclear weapons, launching missions with any kind of radioactive material on board always causes a public outcry (despite the most stringent safeguards against contamination should the mission fail on launch), and hopelessly flawed conspiracy theories are inevitable. RTGs are not nuclear reactors, they simply contain a number of tiny plutonium-238 pellets that slowly decay, emitting α-particles and generating heat. The heat is harnessed by thermocouples and converted into electricity for on board systems and robotic experiments. RTGs also have astonishingly long lifespans. The Voyager probes for example were launched in 1977 and their fuel is predicted to keep them powered-up until 2020 at least. Next, the over-budget and delayed Mars Science Laboratory will be powered by plutonium-238, as will the future Europa orbiter mission. But that is about as far as NASA’s supply will stretch. After Europa, there will be no fuel left.

More ev

Dillow 9 (Clay, writer @ Popular Science, 9/29/9, JPG

Imagine you’re driving across the Mojave Desert, and somewhere in the middle of absolutely nowhere you realize that the next gas station is further away than your car can travel on its current supply of gasoline. What next? That’s the problem NASA mission planners are facing as the agency's supply of plutonium-238, the fuel used to power deep space probes like Cassini and surface scouts like the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory, are dwindling. Unfortunately, that leaves NASA in a pretty tight spot: we’ve depleted our reserves of plutonium-238, and there isn’t anywhere to refuel ahead on the horizon either. Plutonium-238 powers spacecraft via heat given off by its radioactive decay. A small pellet—smaller than one’s fist—glows red from its own heat and can power equipment in extremely hostile environments like the vacuum of space, where temperatures vary greatly. For missions to the outer planets or the Kuiper belt, where sunlight is a thousand times lower and the temperature near absolute zero, plutonium-238 is the only option, as solar power is too weak to provide an effective charge. But this special brand of plutonium was a byproduct of Cold War activities and hasn’t been produced by the U.S. since the ‘80s (plutonium-239 goes in nuclear warheads, so naturally we keep plenty of that laying around). NASA has launched nearly two dozen missions over the past four decades that were powered by plutonium-238, including the Voyager probes, the Galileo probe that studied Jupiter and its moons, and the Cassini that is currently doing laps around Saturn. Those missions ran on either U.S. reserves of plutonium-238 or excess stock purchased from Russia. But now neither nation is producing the stuff, and even if we started again today, it would take eight years to build up production to the volumes necessary for annual deep space missions.

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