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US Responds to Russia-China Plan to Put Nuclear Reactor On Moon

he State Department has urged a “rigorous” safety evaluation of a proposed joint Russia-China plan to establish a nuclear-powered lunar base within the next decade.

Yuri Borisov, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said earlier this month that the two powers are “seriously considering a project” to install a nuclear power station on the lunar surface that may one day support lunar settlements. The project, Borisov said, may take place “somewhere at the turn of 2033-2035.”

A State Department spokesperson told Newsweek that the U.S. “is aware of PRC [People’s Republic of China] and Russian plans for an International Lunar Research Station,” noting the “decades of space cooperation” between the two neighbors.

There is no suggestion that the planned project has a military component, but the Institute for the Study of War suggested Borisov’s remarks were “indicative of warming relations and Chinese willingness to foster a long-term strategic partnership with Russia to posture against and possibly threaten the West.”

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Moscow
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace, on March 21, 2023 in Moscow, Russia.  The two neighbors are expanding their space cooperation. CONTRIBUTOR/GETTY IMAGES

American fears about the weaponization of space were piqued in February, when U.S. lawmakers urged President Joe Biden to declassify information about “a serious national security threat,” reportedly a nuclear-powered Russian anti-satellite weapon. Moscow has repeatedly denied the reports.

Earlier this month, U.S. Space Command chief General Stephen Whiting warned that Russia still poses a “formidable” challenge in space and said the U.S. should not allow itself a “false sense of confidence.”

The State Department spokesperson told Newsweek the U.S. “believes that our open, transparent, and collaborative approach to the exploration and use of outer space enables a more dynamic and innovative ecosystem that benefits the entire world.”

The U.S., Russia, and China are all members of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space—UNCOPUOS—the spokesperson noted. “For launches of any space nuclear system, the United States believes all nations must ensure a rigorous, risk-informed safety analysis.”

“These processes include transparent safety guidelines and are forward-looking and amenable to effective use of space nuclear systems for heating, power, and propulsion.”

“The United States believes that both transparency and rigorous safety practices are paramount to the responsible development and deployment of nuclear reactors in outer space.”

“The U.S. looks forward to reviewing any country submissions to the UNCOPUOS Nuclear Power Sources working group, including for the use of nuclear reactors for lunar exploration.”

Source: Newsweek