From Volume 38, Issue 35 of EIR Online, Published September 9, 2011

U.S. Economic/Financial News

Nuclear Plant for Moon and Mars: You Can Carry It in a Suitcase!

Aug. 30 (EIRNS)—Speakers at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver included James E. Werner, who leads the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory involvement in the project, which includes participation in the reactor design and modeling teams, fuel development, and fabrication and development of a small electrical pump for the liquid metal-cooled fission reactor. This is a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

"People would never recognize the fission power system as a nuclear power reactor," said Werner. "The reactor itself may be about 1 foot wide by 2 feet high, about the size of a carry-on suitcase. There are no cooling towers. A fission power system is a compact, reliable, safe system that may be critical to the establishment of outposts or habitats on other planets. Fission power technology can be applied on Earth's Moon, on Mars, or wherever NASA sees the need for continuous power." The team is scheduled to build a technology demonstration unit in 2012.

Pointing out that solar cells do a great job supplying electricity in near-Earth orbits and for satellite-borne equipment, Werner said "nuclear power offers some unique capabilities that could support manned outposts on other planets or moons. "

"The biggest difference between solar and nuclear reactors is that nuclear reactors can produce power in any environment," Werner explained. "Fission power technology doesn't rely on sunlight, making it able to produce large, steady amounts of power at night or in harsh environments like those found on the Moon or Mars. A fission power system on the Moon could generate 40 kilowatts or more of electric power, approximately the same amount of energy needed to power eight houses on Earth." He said, "A fission power system could operate in a variety of locations such as in craters, canyons, or caves."

In addition, he pointed out that "the main point is that nuclear power has the ability to provide a power-rich environment to the astronauts or science packages anywhere in our solar system, and that this technology is mature, affordable, and safe to use."

Hurricane Irene Is Another Hit on U.S. Food Production

Aug. 31 (EIRNS)—The loss of agricultural production across 13 states from Hurricane Irene, though not comparing with the huge losses already occurring this year from severe Texas-Oklahoma drought and severe Midwest flooding, will further reduce American harvests at a critical point in the global food supply crisis.

Corn and soybean crops, supposed to be harvested in coming weeks, are underwater and destroyed in some river valleys in the Northeast, while dairy farmers can not ship milk in the Northeast, due to paralyzed or destroyed roads, bridges, and rails.

In the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, the worst-hit crop is tobacco, but in New York and the "Garden State" of New Jersey it is corn, soy, and vegetables of all kinds; and in Vermont, widespread destruction of dairy infrastructure. Darrel J. Aubertine, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, said Aug. 31, "I've been involved in agriculture my entire life, and there have been times when the weather has wreaked havoc on livestock and farms, but I don't think I have ever seen anything on this scale here in New York." Corn, onion, and other vegetable crops are flooded out or heavily damaged throughout some of the most fertile valleys in the United States, the Hudson, Mohawk, and Schoharie Valleys.

New York Senators Schumer and Gillebrand asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for an "agricultural disaster" declaration in addition to the overall disaster declaration already made for New York. The state's overall reconstruction costs will probably hit or exceed $2 billion.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says of Vermont: "Vermont has suffered the worst natural disaster in the history of the state. We have very, very serious problems that are going to end up costing a very significant amount of money." Leaving aside no electricity to most of the state as of now, State Transportation Secretary Minter says the infrastructure damage is "like from an earthquake." 263 roads are out, 35 highway bridges and 4 rail bridges out; 12 towns are completely isolated, including the city of Rochester. The situation in Connecticut is 1,000 roads out and more than half the state still without power. Amtrak rail service is generally shut down throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Hurricane Irene will be one the 10 worst natural disasters in U.S. history by cost, estimated already at $7-10 billion in economic losses.

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