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UK Space Agency is Building World’s First Space Battery Powered by Radioactive Americium-241 Waste

UK Space Battery Americum-241 Nuclear Waste
Back here on Earth, we have quantum batteries for faster EV charging, and soon in space, there is going to be the world’s first space battery powered by radioactive Americium-241 waste. These atomic space batteries, or Radioisotope Power Systems (RPSs), basically release heat as the radioactivity within them decays, which is then used directly to prevent spacecraft from freezing and can be converted into electricity to power onboard systems.

Why Americium-241? A plentiful supply and an alternative to Plutonium-238, since Americium-241 can be produced during the radioactive decay of used fuel from nuclear reactors as well as it being capable of emitting power for over 400 years. The new National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) flagship Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site is home to the largest resource of Americium-241 available for extraction in the world and will be operational within the next four years. The Americium-241 extracted will be first used on the European Space Agency’s Argonaut mission to the Moon and for future missions into deep space.

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For the past 50 years space missions have used Plutonium-238 to stop spacecrafts from freezing but it is in very limited supply. At NNL we have identified significant reserves of Americium-241, a radioisotope with similar properties to Plutonium-238 but game-changing potential for the UK’s space ambitions,” said Professor Tim Tinsley, account director for this work at the National Nuclear Laboratory.

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