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Nuclear Power/Fusion powered VTOL cargo spaceships


Dear Dr. Welter

I have been recently reading about advances in compact nuclear fusion reactors in the UK at Tokamak Energy.  What is the possibility on a 15 to 20 year time horizon of building a VTOL wholly reusable craft for ferrying equipment to the moon to build a permanent base there.  How would the thermal energy be converted into efficient motive force?

I recently read Atomic Awakening and have become fascinated with the potential for nuclear energy in the future.

In addition, I also read that it could be 2035 to 2050 before we have any commercial application for projects such as ITER.  Could that development be accelerated if Government was to put up dozens of billions to accelerate the program?

Thank you kindly, Gordon Styles

Hi Gordon, great question! To be frank I'm not an expert on fusion or nuclear space propulsion. However, that doesn't stop me from having an opinion :) Based on recent projects I've been tangentially a part of, plasma propulsion using fission seems like the best option currently for long-term missions. Also, there seems to be a lot more interest in heading to Mars than the Moon, due to the recent discoveries which indicate the potential for significant amounts of water on Mars. In my opinion, nuclear fission powered space flight to Mars seems like the next big thing in space travel.
P.S. The rocket could be landed on Mars and the fission reactor used for powering a base of operations.  

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Dr. Kent Welter


Ever wonder what the next generation of nuclear reactor might look like? Or if the radiation from Fukushima is making your sushi unsafe? I have a passion for nuclear energy and new technologies. Ask me anything! Expertise in nuclear power safety, licensing, advanced reactors, risk, and radiation. I also love science fiction and dabble in space reactors.


Reactor Systems Engineer and Branch Chief at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nuclear Safety Engineering Manager at NuScale Power.

Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Oregon State University (2002)

Awards and Honors
2011 Oregon Stater Award. 2007 Scientific Achievement Award from the Oregon Institute of Technology Alumni.

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