Pits to Luna; People to Mars
There are too many plutonium pits and is too much pollution and some say are too many people but I say is too much ancient technology in use by the precious people of and on this Earth of our, and the pits under control of some of the people, and the pollution generated by essentially all the people endanger essentially all the people, unless some can leave. Ideally they can all leave, and should, in my humbly and most carefully reasoned opinion, since this planet is in runaway and will die soon. So let us please think for a moment of what to do with what we have. What to take and what to leave behind.
As stated, and I did state carefully, perhaps you are thinking, as I am thinking, that nuclear rockets could get us safely to Mars. Well, they could..if we could develop them safely...but we can't. The development program is nearly as threatening as a nuclear holocaust; just one engine failure would pollute the planet to an endgame.
What if we moved the pits and the development program to Luna--to the Moon?
There is a staggering amount of energy in each pit. There exist ways of modifying them to reactor use. It isn't the easiest thing but it's an awfully long journey, they threaten us, and they are attractively compact. I'm not a nuclear engineer and this is just a modest proposal but the ice melting off the Antarctic is no longer mixing with the salt water, that is to say, now fails to mix with salt water to an ever increasing extent, causing an unforseen acceleration in melting and an equally unforseen reduction in ocean circulation. We're quite doomed and must leave soon. The damage to the trees is a symptom. They will son die, fall, accumulate, and burn releasing approximately the same amount of energy in the firestorm that World War Three, with all of our roughly 15,000 pits, would release: about 10^21 joules. Then will come the long Winter.
Wood burning rocketa won't get us to Mars. Nuclear rockets will. They have high specific impulse. Wood forest burnout in a global firestorm threatens us on the one hand, and an nuclear holocaust on the other. There have been calls for multilateral total disarmament but there's never been a goal. Now we have a goal. We must leave a dying planet. Ideally, we will evacuate everyone.
Here's the bad news.
We can't evacuate everyone or acess all the pits. Sorry. Many will simply not want to leave and complete disarmament is unlikely. There is a vast supply of nuclear material including pits. The modest proposal is simply that we experiment with nuclear propulsion as safely as possible on the Moon so that we can develop the most reliable high impulse engine we can for a permanent Mars colony because we might be right thta the Earth is in runaway and is doomed so that at least some will survive and it is a valuable undertaking if we are wrong. Carbon sequestration in a self-reproducing deployment of an as-yet unknown technology is the only other answer. At this point we are in my own sphere of expertise but at the limit of my understanding.
So what we are talking about here is a nuclear stand-down. Callling it that means that all nuclear powers could retire their least valuable nuclear weapons multilaterally to the Lunar engine development base in a first launch forming a substantial investment there. Progress in engine development on Luna, if there was any, would motivate a further stand-down with hopes of proceeding to a Mars colony and feedback to Earth from Lunar manufacturing of advanced materials made possible by low gravity, vacuum, and high energy and power made available by the nuclear plants.
By Chelsea Harvey, E&E News on April 20, 2018