MOSCOW, November 25. /TASS/. Proposals for mining the isotope Helium-3 (He-3) on the Moon to provide humanity with a clean and efficient form of energy make no sense for the time being and should be seen as far-fetched speculations, the executive director for research programs and science at Russia’s corporation Roscosmos, Alexander Bloshenko, has told TASS in an interview.
"Currently there exist several insoluble technological problems that do not allow for building a Helium-3 reactor on Earth. Also, one should bear in mind the costs of mining and delivery of Helium-3 from the Moon. They will reduce to nothing its hypothetical advantages. For the time being this possibility looks nothing more than science fiction," Bloshenko said.
The amount of this isotope present in the upper layer of the lunar surface is insignificant, so producing it in sufficient amounts would require creating a lunar industry as big as gold-mining on Earth.
"Also, the share of He-3 in the lunar soil is very small. If gold were present on Earth in such amounts, its production would not be worthwhile," Bloshenko added.
He explained that the fusion of He-3 atoms, in contrast to the ordinary deuterium-tritium reaction which many countries have tried to accomplish for the past 50 years with no success, produces charged protons, but not neutrons. It is far easier to stop protons with magnetic fields and take off the energy.
"It is noteworthy that the price to be paid for such an insignificant advantage is very high: in the deuterium-tritium reaction thermonuclear fusion is possible at temperatures above 100 million degrees Celsius. The He-3 reaction requires temperatures nine to ten times higher, in other words, about one billion degrees," Bloshenko went on.
He did not rule out that at some future date humanity would devise a solution for thermonuclear fusion at such temperatures, "but then He-3 isotopes will be unnecessary, because another chemical element that requires a similar critical temperature for fusion (1.3 billion degrees) is boron, which can be extracted in unlimited amounts from the oceans.
In 2018, the chief of the Indian Space Research organization, Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan, said that theoretically the amount of Helium-3 found on the Moon would keep the world energy industry going for at least 250 years.
At different times plans for extracting Helium-3 from the lunar soil existed in Russia, the United States and India. Currently Helium-3 is not mined on Earth. It is a product of decay of artificially produced tritium. In Russia, Helium-3 is produced by Rosatom enterprises — the industrial association Mayak and the JSC Isotope.