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Kerbal's attitude to nuclear power


Temstar
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So I was on that atomic rocket site doing research to attempt to answer the question of "what's the Isp of an Orion drive" when an interesting thought occurred to me.

The existence of LV-N means Kerbals have probably mastered all the related technologies like enrichment of fuel, breeding of fissile material and controlling sustained chain reaction.

On the other hand, on earth we managed to make things that use uncontrolled chain reaction (read, bombs) first before we could make practical commercial reactors. Even if we factor in the fact that Kerbals might be more peace-loving than us humans it seems unavoidable that at some point a Kerbal would have arrived at the idea of squeezing a sphere of Blutonium-238 to make an atomic bomb. And given their fascination with rockets someone would have made the connection between bombs and rocketry as soon as they saw one go off.

Since Kerbals don't have Orion drive I suppose this actually says something about Kerbal's attitude to nuclear power. Either they never made the leap between reactors and bombs which seems unlikely, or they deliberately choose not to make bombs, despite its potential usefulness for space exploration.

So I think if you pull a random Kerbal off the street and asked about their view, they would be pro-nuclear but against bomb making. What do you think?

 

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If memory serves me correctly nuclear reactors needed to be constructed to produce the weapons grade plutonium used to fuel the Fat Man bomb. Thus practical reactor technology was co-developed along with nuclear weapons.

Also I'm also willing to guess even a nuclear bomb is still an example of controlled nuclear reaction. These weapons are designed to create the conditions that make a sudden and energetic fission reaction to take place. When I think of an uncontrolled reaction; I think of what had happened in the Chernobyl or Fukushima reactor catastrophes.

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Kerbals in my mind-canon are peaceful folk, with a childlike drive for exploration. They are not stupid, but simple in terms of their motivations... they just want to see whats over the other side of the hill, ocean, the horizon and beyond. 

This means I can conceivably see them not inventing bombs, but still inventing rockets. I can see them harnessing the atom to advance their march to the stars, but having no concept of using it to destroy. At least, while they are more than familiar with the destructive power of a less than optimally built rocket, they could not conceive of making them blow up stuff deliberately... why would you do that, you'd just need to rebuild it again. 

So generally, in a world which had never suffered a Hiroshima or Nagasaki, they would see nuclear energy as a invaluable tool for the exploratory instincts. 

    

Edited by Tourist
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42 minutes ago, Exploro said:

If memory serves me correctly nuclear reactors needed to be constructed to produce the weapons grade plutonium used to fuel the Fat Man bomb. Thus practical reactor technology was co-developed along with nuclear weapons.

Your memory serves you admirably, though I expect it would have been developed for peaceful purposes eventually.

44 minutes ago, Exploro said:

Also I'm also willing to guess even a nuclear bomb is still an example of controlled nuclear reaction.

Indeed, hence why it's actually rather difficult to make one. ;)

45 minutes ago, Exploro said:

When I think of an uncontrolled reaction; I think of what had happened in the Chernobyl or Fukushima reactor catastrophes.

In the case of Chernobyl yes (to a certain extent, instability rather than completely uncontrolled), but the real catastrophe was the Loss of Cooling and eventual meltdown that this this caused.

At Fukushima the reactors actually SCRAMed as designed, they were never out of control. The real disaster was a LoC event due to loss of power for the coolant pumps and the resultant inability to control decay heat - again leading to (partial) core meltdown.

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3 hours ago, Exploro said:

If memory serves me correctly nuclear reactors needed to be constructed to produce the weapons grade plutonium used to fuel the Fat Man bomb. Thus practical reactor technology was co-developed along with nuclear weapons.

Indeed, but if we want to be technical and look to which was first demonstrated.... Nuclear reactors were up and running by 1942:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Pile-1

While the first atom bomb was detonated in 1945.

So, reactors came before bombs... for nuclear fission.

Its the opposite for fusion... the first H bomb was detonated in 1952... and its 2016 and we still dont have a fusion reactor capable of producing practical amounts of power (technically, the bombs were using fusion reactions, and thus fusion reactors, and they certainly produced net power... but such amounts of power released all at once are very impractical... except for orion drives...)

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I did specify commercial reactor. I realize that research reactors and reactors specifically designed for breeding plutonium existed before bombs since the plutonium had to come from somewhere.

The idea is that if kerbals can make reactors for NTR then their ground based reactor tech would already be fairly advanced. Certainly advanced enough to support a large bomb building program that Orion might require. 

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6 hours ago, Temstar said:

So I think if you pull a random Kerbal off the street and asked about their view, they would be pro-nuclear but against bomb making. What do you think?

I think that given this is a society that developed the technology to put a Kerbal on the Mun before they invented the ladder, then judging them by our standards of technological development isn't particularly enlightening.  Having said that, Kerbal's appear entirely unwar-like, and certainly there's no indication of waring factions on Kerbin.  

My guess is that they absolutely did invent thermonuclear explosives (probably before the steam engine) but they did so because they made a really big bang and though the faint green glow they left afterwards was pretty - they mostly use them for fireworks displays.

Wemb

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6 hours ago, Exploro said:

Also I'm also willing to guess even a nuclear bomb is still an example of controlled nuclear reaction. These weapons are designed to create the conditions that make a sudden and energetic fission reaction to take place. When I think of an uncontrolled reaction; I think of what had happened in the Chernobyl or Fukushima reactor catastrophes.

Actually, I think an even better example of an uncontrolled reaction would be the Demon Core - the components of what was going to be the third bomb dropped on Japan - which, at Los Alamos twice killed in entirely uncontrolled and unconstrained nuclear reactions when it was accidental made critical during experiments. (An A-bomb and (even more so) H-bomb's need to be -very- controlled to produce a 'bang' rather than just a ton of radiation). Still a bomb, and still death's - but no explosions (or leaks, etc - the components were later used in a bomb test).

 

Wemb

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8 hours ago, Tourist said:

Kerbals in my mind-canon are peaceful folk, with a childlike drive for exploration. They are not stupid, but simple in terms of their motivations... they just want to see whats over the other side of the hill, ocean, the horizon and beyond. 

This means I can conceivably see them not inventing bombs, but still inventing rockets. I can see them harnessing the atom to advance their march to the stars, but having no concept of using it to destroy. At least, while they are more than familiar with the destructive power of a less than optimally built rocket, they could not conceive of making them blow up stuff deliberately... why would you do that, you'd just need to rebuild it again. 

So generally, in a world which had never suffered a Hiroshima or Nagasaki, they would see nuclear energy as a invaluable tool for the exploratory instincts. 

That's similar to my headcanon. In general, Kerbals are a pretty environmentally aware species, mostly because of their biology and dependence on certain plant species.

Their power generation is based around nuclear and renewables with limited use of fossil fuels for transportation where electric vehicles simply aren't feasible. Nuclear waste is certainly a problem but was considered to be less of a problem than continued wholesale extraction and burning of fossil fuels. The idea that a fission reaction could be used to cause colossal amounts of damage whilst spreading radioactive junk all over the landscape has certainly occurred to them (not least because their reactor designs are explicitly intended to avoid that scenario) but the concept of designing and  building a device to do it deliberately goes beyond 'distasteful' and into 'anathema'.

Edited by KSK
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Well, Man is firstly and mainly a weapon-maker. This is what defines Homo Sapiens and is the major factor in this particular species' evolution.

I'm thinking Kerbals could be more like "tool-makers"? That would make them significantly different in many ways, a subject worthy of a serious study.

I'll also say another thing. They arrived and landed on distant planets, and they aren't all going to die by global warming caused by fossil fuels.

 

Edited by Vermil
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What I consider canon to KSP is whatever I can drudge up in stock as well as official mods, and any mods made by Roverdude are theoretical (Similar to Mars One or Skylon. They are more than capable, they just haven't actually built them yet). By this logic, they have definitely thought about the Orion Drive.

 

However my Kerbals differ significantly from my idea of what is actually KSP canon, in that they are more like humans behaviorally.

Edited by FungusForge
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Nuclear propulsion without nuclear weaponry is normal in the Kerbal mind in the same way that hydrocarbon propulsion is possible without invoking hydrocarbon weaponry.

Think about it: humans didn't first use rocket fuel to explore the universe, we used it to shoot musket balls/rocket arrows at other humans. Kerbals are a far more advanced species. Their use of nuclear technology is no different.

Now, Kerbals love a good explosion so the Orion drive would appeal to them - but the thought of using that as a weapon would be an anathema. At the risk of summoning an NRA press spokesperson: nuclear bombs don't kill people, people kill people. Kerbals, on the other hand, are far more civilised.

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Ah yes. Alas, if only human civilization at large would take a few pages from Kerbal civilization.

However, as to the reasons they're so peaceable, I have some ideas:
- The Kerbal population, and the ratio of individual Kerbals' needs to available land area and resources, is small. Evidence is that there is very little Kerbal architecture on Kerbin, there is only one space program (maybe two), and prices for important resources like fuel and rocket parts are comparatively low next to ours.
- Perhaps in the past they DID experiment with uncontrolled nuclear blasts, and in so doing (being Kerbals) they caused widespread devastation. Since then the environment has at least mostly recovered, but note the relative sparseness of trees, low biodiversity, and aforementioned dearth of Kerbal architecture. There's also one or two huge blast craters on Kerbin, which we all presume are the results of asteroid impacts, but mayyybe...

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No.

Please. No!

You're not trying to say, that the reason why I never saw any traces of the civilization that must have lasted for thousands of years to become a space-faring one.... all the old cities that are no longer to be seen.... all that farmland that has long since been reclaimed by nature.... oh. my. god.

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Well, we do know that Kerbals bodies themselves react to radioactivity ( by glowing ). One of the ways that could happen is if the Kerbals themselves are radioactive :P

P.S. Now that I think on it, it actually makes sense: Kerbals do not need food because they use radioactive isotopes to power quimiosynthesis  ... Wait, did I just justified a design decision? :P

Edited by r_rolo1
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