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Los Alamos self regulating reactors from tens of kilowatts for NASA to several megawatts

• nextbigfuture.com by brian wang

NASA has focused on the use of KiloPower for potential Mars human exploration. NASA has examined the need for power on Mars and determined that approximately 40 kilowatts would be needed. Five 10-kilowatt KiloPower reactors (four main reactors plus one spare) could solve this power requirement.

During steady state, a reactor operates with a neutron multiplication factor of '1.000'; that is, the number of neutrons in the core remains unchanged from one generation to the next generation.

Almost every perturbation in a reactor's operation ultimately translates into either a positive or a negative reactivity insertion incident, defined as the state in which the core neutron multiplication factor deviates from its steady state value. Sudden and significant positive reactivity insertion can lead to runaway reactor kinetics, wherein temperatures can exceed thermal limits very rapidly.

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