Environmental Aspects of Lunar Helium-3 Mining

by G. L. Kulcinski, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison, United States,
E. N. Cameron, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison, United States,
W. D. Carrier, III, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison, United States,
H. H. (Jack) Schmitt, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III


Three potential detrimental effects of lunar 3He mining have been identified; visual changes, atmospheric contamination, and solid waste disposal. The removal of small craters (<20 m diameter) and the change in the albedo of the surface may cause a slight darkening of the regolith. However, it is not expected that this change will be visible from the Earth even with powerful telescopes. The release of lunar volatile gases and their effect on the lunar 'atmosphere' is expected to be both local and temporary (on the order of a few weeks from the time of release). The solution to solid waste disposal is to recycle as much as possible and to bury the non-recyclable waste. The lack of wind and water means that the waste will stay localized indefinitely and cause no contamination of the environment. The positive benefits of using lunar 3He in terrestrial fusion plants far outweigh the detrimental effects of mining. The reduction in radioactive waste, greenhouse and acid gases, and the reduction in terrestrial mining for fossil fuels could have a major impact on the quality of life in the 21st century.

Subject Headings: Moon | Waste disposal | Mine wastes | Solid wastes | Radioactive wastes | Dissolved gases | Pollution | Water pollution

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