Public Comment Time:

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Space Radioisotope Power Systems

February, 2006

NASA is inviting public comments on its Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS) for a program to develop two new kinds of Radioisotope Power Systems (RPSs) for space missions. Here is a chance to make your voice heard.  Public comments due by February 20, 2006.

Key Points:

-- NASA and the Department of Energy (who manage nuclear development and production) already have long records of accidents and toxic contamination, from radioactive spills at production facilities to space shuttle explosions. Continuing and expanding space plutonium power systems will lengthen the long list of environmental destruction from plutonium. In particular, the risk of a catastrophic release of plutonium over a wide area at a launch-time explosion is all too real.

-- The DPEIS considers two alternative plans. The misleadingly-named "No Action Alternative" would continue funding long-term research and development of nuclear RPSs. The "Proposed Action" would in addition develop two new RPSs, the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator and the Stirling Radioisotope Generator. 

-- In view of the severe environmental consequences of plutonium, both alternatives are unsatisfactory and all development of nuclear power systems for space should be stopped. We want the entire program cancelled and move funds into alternative non-nuclear power source research and development.

-- With sufficient research and development, alternative power sources for space missions are practicable — all the more so in light of NASA’s envisioning the need for lower levels of electric power in future missions. European Space Agency missions such as Rosetta, and NASA’s own Stardust mission, are examples of successful use of solar power technology far from the Sun.

-- The DPEIS states that RPSs are being developed "for NASA’s space exploration purposes and not for military purposes". But it is well known that military applications are in the background. For example:

"The primary driver for us to start production [of plutonium-powered batteries] is for national security requirements," said Tim Frazier, director of the energy department's radioisotope power systems program in Washington, D.C. "As to what those national security applications are, I would just prefer to say not in space." (Associated Press July 3, 2005)

-- Every expansion of the plutonium economy, including research, development and transportation over thousands of miles of deadly materials, increases the risk that nuclear accidents or theft.

The DPEIS is available at

Comments are due by Feb. 20, 2006

Comments may be sent via email to:

or to:

Dr. Ajay Misra
Science Mission Directorate
Mail Code 3C67
NASA Headquarters
300 E Street, NW
Washington DC 20546-0001
(202) 358-1588

See also: Atomic Tourism Anyone?


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