Nuclear Science:

Challenges Facing Space Reactor Power Systems Development

RCED-88-23: Published: Dec 2, 1987. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Energy's (DOE) space nuclear development programs, specifically: (1) management and coordination among the sponsoring organizations; and (2) safety-related tasks associated with DOE program activities.

GAO found that, although both the SP-100 Space Reactor Program and the Multimegawatt (MMW) Space Nuclear Power Program are still in the developmental stages, they have encountered problems, including: (1) coordination and control of the activities by the numerous organizations involved in the SP-100 program; (2) the inability to demonstrate that the technology can meet the required size, weight, performance, and safety standards; and (3) the Department of Defense's and National Aeronautics and Space Administration's failure to commit themselves to the use of SP-100 power system technology. GAO also found that: (1) Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) power requirements are much greater than SP-100 has demonstrated that it can produce; (2) in fiscal years 1986 and 1987 MMW funding was reduced; (3) the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's proposal to develop and deploy an antiballistic missile system affected MMW program strategy; and (4) program managers believe that DOE will determine the technical feasibility of MMW power for SDI by the early 1990's.

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