Nuclear Science:

Usefulness of Space Power Research to Ground-Based Nuclear Reactor Systems

RCED-89-17: Published: Dec 6, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 6, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO surveyed nuclear power systems experts on the potential usefulness of space nuclear power systems research to the development of civilian terrestrial nuclear power systems.

GAO found that: (1) experts expected that the Department of Energy's (DOE) SP-100 Space Power Program and Multimegawatt Space Nuclear Power Program (MMW) would provide useful knowledge to: (1) advanced liquid metal- and gas-cooled terrestrial reactor development in the areas of fuel and fuel systems, materials, heat transport, instrumentation, control methodology, safety, reliability, and modeling and analysis techniques; and (2) water-cooled terrestrial systems only in generic areas, such as reactor instrumentation and control, since space power research involved liquid metal and gas concepts. GAO also found that: (1) design differences between space and terrestrial hardware components limited technology transfer; and (2) SP-100 was less likely than MMW to produce useful technology. In addition, GAO found that the degree of technology transfer depended on: (1) DOE dissemination of space power research results; (2) sufficient funding of space and advanced terrestrial programs; and (3) the resolution of institutional problems, including problems with licensing, financing, and public perception.

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