TRUE DEMOCRACY SUMMER 2001 TABLE OF CONTENTS
Nuclear powered space vehicles or spacecraft
WHAT'S NEW by Robert L. Park FRIDAY, 5 APRIL 1991 WASHINGTON, DC
1. SECRET DEVELOPMENT OF NUCLEAR ROCKET FOR STAR WARS DISCLOSED!
Last fall, Congress eliminated the directed energy weapons
budget account from the SDI program (WN 19 Oct 90)
, but Congress didn't even know about a "black" program to develop a nuclear
rocket to launch such weapons into space. Since orbiting weapons would be
vulnerable, the idea was to employ "pop-up" weapons to counter a missile attack.
That's not simple. Chemical lasers, for example, would require many tons
of fuel. The "solution" was to undertake development of a nuclear rocket engine
with a very high specific impulse. Project "Timberwind" is based on a particle
bed reactor using tiny uranium carbide pellets as fuel. The pellets would
be used to heat hydrogen propellents. Nuclear rocket engines are not a new
idea; NASA abandoned efforts to develop such an engine in 1972 because it
needed the funds for the space shuttle. An NRC panel recommended a year ago
(WN 2 Mar 90) that the program be revived
as part of a Moon/Mars mission. The problem is safety.
2. RAIN OF TERROR: SHOULD NUCLEAR REACTORS BE KEPT OUT OF ORBIT?
In 1978, a Soviet radar satellite, powered by a 3-kw reactor,
re- entered the Earth's atmosphere over Canada, scattering highly radioactive
debris over 40,000 square miles of tundra, yet the SDI program was supporting
development of a 100-kw nuclear reactor to supply electrical power for spaced-based
defenses. Star Wars plans called for hundreds of the SP-100 reactors. But
the useful lifetime of untended reactors is only about seven years; then
they would have to be replaced. The spent reactors, of course, would still
be there--if we're lucky. It is the spent reactors that are most dangerous,
because of the build-up of fusion products over their operating lifetime.
It is generally thought that the risk of using reactors to supply power for
interplanetary missions is acceptable, particularly if they are launched
cold. The use of nuclear engines for the upper stages of rockets on interplanetary
missions also seems reasonable, but the idea of using them to transport objects
into orbit is nuts. The revelation should give impetus to Rep. George Brown's
call for a moratorium on nuclear power in Earth orbit
(WN 10 Feb 89).
3. IT'S THE LIBRARIANS VS. ROBERT MAXWELL AND MARTIN MARIETTA!
Well, why not? They took on the FBI in the infamous "library
awareness" case and won. Now they are backing the Information Dissemination
Equity Act (IDEA) which offers single-point access to federal electronic databases
at cost to most subscribers or free through the depository library program.
At present this electronic information is very expensive, since private vendors
have arranged exclusive contracts to sell information collected at taxpayer
expense: Martin Marietta sells USDA data; Robert Maxwell, the British publishing
magnate, puts out the GAO's US Legislative History Collection. Asked how
IDEA relates to Sen. Gore's "information superhighway," a spokesperson for
the American Library Association said, "This is the filling station."
Robert L. Park (202) 232-0189 The American Physical Society
[Editor's note: After extensive search, I was unable to ascertain whether
or not the American Library Association "won" their lawsuit against the FBI.
I did locate the entire first edition of True Democracy on a Google
search which incorporated the following terms: "American Library Association,"
"FBI," "Library Awareness"]