This paper addresses the question: What mechanism(s) would improve the political feasibility of a nuclear power program for US space operations? For a period of more than 50 years, the United States has been exploring the potential of nuclear-powered reactors for use in a variety of space-based applications. From the earliest days, there have been numerous challenges—some technical, many political—that have impeded progress in every program that the United States has considered. The issues surrounding space nuclear power (SNP) are complex and multifaceted. For the United States, the development of SNP lies at the intersection of program cost benefit and the social perception of risk. The actual decision to employ SNP is finally political—encompassing political judgment, will, and acceptance of risk. But if the current climate surrounding nuclear use remains manifest, the future for SNP looks politically challenging.
Flying Reactors: The Political Feasibility of Nuclear Power in Space * Chapter 1 - Whither Space Nuclear Power? * Chapter 2 - Space Nuclear Power as Transscientific Public Policy * Chapter 3 - Political Permission—The Contemporary Dimensions * Chapter 4 - A Transscientific Political Engagement Strategy * Chapter 5 - Conclusions