Accidents are inevitable Aftergood 11 (Steven, directs the Project on Government Secrecy @ Federation of American Scientists, Jun 28, [www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2011/06/space_nuclear_power.html] AD: 7-7-11, jam)
Unfortunately, the plutonium 238 power sources that are used to power these missions are not only expensive, they are dirty and dangerous to produce and to launch. The first launch accident (pdf) involving an RTG occurred as early as 1964 and distributed 17,000 curies of plutonium-238 around the globe, a 4% increase in the total environmental burden (measured in curies) from all plutonium isotopes (mostly fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing). A plutonium fueled RTG that was deployed in 1965 by the CIA not in space but on a mountaintop in the Himalayas (to help monitor Chinese nuclear tests) continues to generate anxiety, not electricity, more than four decades after it was lost in place. See, most recently, “River Deep Mountain High” by Vinod K. Jose, The Caravan magazine, December 1, 2010. A good deal of effort has been invested to make today’s RTGsmore or less impervious to the most likely launch accident scenarios. But they will be never be perfectly safe. In order to minimize the health and safety risks involved in space nuclear power while still taking advantage of the benefits it can offer for space exploration, the Federation of American Scientists years ago proposed (pdf) that nuclear power — both plutonium-fueled RTGs and uranium-fueled reactors — be used only for deep space missions and not in Earth orbit. Although this proposal was never officially adopted, it represents the de facto policy of spacefaring nations today.
Accidents are likely – any NASA risk assessment is flawed Davidson 3 (Keay, science writer @ San Francisco Chronicle, won the AAAS and NASW science journalism awards, Apr 29, [www.seattlepi.com/national/article/Despite-protests-NASA-continues-nuclear-use-1113541.php] AD: 7-8-11, jam)
NASA says the probability of a life-threatening nuclear accident -- one that would eject cancer-causing bits of plutonium into the atmosphere -- is extremely low. But skepticsdoubt that such probabilities can be realistically calculated. The debate over nuclear space launches is a case study of a larger phenomenon: the growing use of "probabilistic risk assessments," or PRAs, to estimate technological risks. PRAs are increasingly used by engineers, ecologists, environmental officials, food-safety analysts, officials at nuclear reactors, structural safety experts and other experts to estimate the likelihood of a technological disaster, from the collapse of a bridge in high winds to lung cancer cases caused by a nuclear plant accident. Even advocates caution that PRAs' seemingly reliable statistical estimates -- say, one chance in a million of an accident -- depend on many fuzzy assumptions. They don't include unexpected factors, ranging from terrorists' cunning to one technician's unbelievable stupidity. Nuclear-powered generators have provided electricity for more than two dozen U.S. space missions since the early 1960s. As part of Project Prometheus, NASA scientists hope to launch a robot with a nuclear-driven ion engine into orbit around three moons of Jupiter, perhaps as early as 2011. The orbiter will require nuclear power to support its energy-gobbling instruments, including radar powerful enough to view oceans beneath the moons' icy crusts. For safety reasons, the nuclear engine will not be switched on until it is far from Earth. But anti-nuclear activists aren't reassured. They say the recent Columbiaspace shuttle disaster, which killed seven astronauts, reinforces their belief that launching nuclear payloads is too risky -- and that NASA's confidence in such missions is foolish. NASA estimates a 1-in-31 chance of a launch accident involving the unmanned Mars-bound spaceship scheduled for launch late next month. Thanks partly to the "rugged design" of the nuclear heater units, NASA says, the chance that an accident will actually release any radioactivity into Earth's environment is even lower -- 1 in 230. If an accident occurred during launch, spectators and people downwind could inhale small quantities of radionuclides, NASA acknowledges. But even then, the health threat is minuscule, said Edward Weiler, associate administrator for space science, in a Jan. 31 report. Critics say those numbers are numerical nonsense. Even before the Columbia catastrophe, NASA officials knew PRAs weren't perfect. A little-noticed report by the NASA inspector general, published eight months before the Columbia tragedy, acknowledged critics' charge that "sole reliance on (PRAs) can lead to an unsafe spacecraft." That's partly because it encourages engineers to concentrate on improving individual spacecraft components, thereby lowering each component's risk of failure, without concentrating on improving the overall shuttle design.
Accidents – ! Helper
The plan creates a Chernobyl in the sky – spreads radiation across the globe
Grossman 4 (Karl, Journalism prof @ the State U of NY and author of "Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power”, Earth First Journal, March-April 2004, http://westgatehouse.com/art154.html) JPG
Opponents of using nuclear power in space warn of serious accidents from Project Prometheus. And it's not a matter of the sky falling--accidentshavealreadyhappened in the use of nuclear power in space. In 1964, there was an accident in which a SNAP-9A, plutonium-powered US satellite fell back to Earth, disintegrating and spreading plutonium over every continent at every latitude. Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California-Berkeley, has long linked the SNAP-9A accident to an increased level of lung cancer. Warning of a "Chernobyl in the sky," Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of nuclear physicsat the City Universityof New York, points to alternatives to atomic power in space--among them solar power and long-lived fuel cells. "Some of these alternatives may delay the space program a bit. But the planets are not going to go away." Indeed, as a result of the SNAP-9A accident, NASA intensified its work on solar energy systems, and its satellites are now powered by solar energy, as is the International Space Station. NASA has a division working on the additional uses of space solar power.
Grossman 3 (Karl, Journalism prof @ the State U of NY and author of "Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power”, February 2003, http://www.envirovideo.com/nuclearspacestory.html) JPG
The Transit 4A’s plutonium system was manufactured by General Electric. Then, in 1964, there was a serious accident involving a plutonium-energized satellite. On April 24, 1964, the GE-built Transit 5BN with a the SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) board failed to achieve orbit and fell from the sky and disintegrating as it burned in the atmosphere. The 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 (an isotope of plutonium 280 times "hotter" with radioactivity than the Plutonium-239 which is used in atomic and hydrogen bombs) in the SNAP-9A dispersed widely over the Earth. A study titled Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear-Powered Satellites done by a grouping of European health and radiation protection agencies later reported that "a worldwide soil sampling program carried out in 1970 showedSNAP-9A debris present at all continents and at all latitudes." Long connecting the SNAP-9A accident and an increase of lung cancer on Earth has been Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, an M.D. and Ph.D. who was involved in isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project and co-discovered several radioisotopes.