Mining Helium-3 From the Moon -- A Solution to the Earth's Energy Needs in the 2lst Century

Kulcinski, Gerald L. ; Cameron, Eugene N. ; Schmitt, Harrison H. ; Sviatoslavsky, Igor N.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1990
The recent discovery of large amounts of helium-3, a valuable thermonuclear fuel, on the surface of the Moon has prompted engineers and scientists to examine the commercial attractiveness, thetechnological feasibility, and the environmental features of this important resource. The main feature of this fuel cycle is the low (˜ 1%) fraction of energy released in neutrons. Such low neutron fluxes result in important reductions in the amount of radioactivity, afterheat, and radiation damage in a fusion power plant. On the other hand, the high fraction of energy in charged particles and synchrotron radiation can be directly converted to electricity, resulting in very high efficiencies of electricity production (˜60.70%). It has been shown that there is 10 times more energy in He3 on the Moon than there ever was in fossil fuels (i.e., coal, oil, and gas) on the Earth. The techniques and equipment needed to extract the helium-3 have been examined and internationally acceptable mechanisms for the industrial development of this resource have been outlined. This paper expands on the financial, environmental, and technical aspects of the recovery of helium-3 for use in the 21st century.
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