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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Jason Weber
Physical Geology

Helium-3, Super fuel


     Helium-3 (He-3) could quite possibly be the world’s next super fuel. Offering Nuclear power with no radioactive waste or byproduct. And for those who don’t know, that’s is pretty amazing. Just how amazing? According to Artemis Project paper, about twenty-five tons or one Space Shuttle cargo bay’s full, could power the entire United States for up to one year.  The only disheartening part to this discovery, is that Earth’s magnetic field has prevented He-3 deposits and contains merely .0000137 % of this Helium (He) isotope, which makes it very, very rare. Fortunately for us, our cosmic neighbor, the moon, has no protection from solar wind and holds quite an abundance of it.  Furthermore, its economic value is as astronomical as it’s rare, with a mind blowing three billion US dollars per ton of He-3. Many governments have already set their focus on He-3, its vast nuclear potential, along with its development, mining in particular.

What is helium-3(H e-3)?

     With anything less than a degree in Nuclear Physics, understanding the parent isotopes and properties of He-3 can be very complex. In a nutshell, Helium-3 is a gas ejected from the Sun via solar flares. It can also be found in the maintenance and storage of nuclear weapons. It’s a very lightweight, Non-radioactive isotope of the basic element Helium (He), number two on the Periodic Table of Elements. It is derived from the decay of the element Tritium (T or Hydrogen-3) which is widely produced by cosmic rays.



    Tritium atoms are very unstable because of the two extra neutrons within its nucleus. These extra neutrons give the Tritium (T or Hydrogen-3) atom an excess amount of energy, thus causing the atom to undergo something called, “…Nuclear transformation or radioactive decay.” During this decay tritium exerts two radioactive particles. A beta particle, similar to an electron and an anti-neutrino which does not interact with matter. Left in the wake of the decay process, a much more stable atom, He-3 is born.




Lunar Mining

  The abundance of known He-3 is said to be located within lunar soils. Found just below the surface, in a layer called “Regolith”. Regolith, by definition “the layer of unconsolidated rocky material covering bedrock”. Deposited over billions of years by our Sun’s solar winds, the lunar surface is said hold an estimated 1,100,000 metric tons of He-3.

   How can it be mined? One theory is that the lunar dust can be heated to 600 degrees Celsius to extract the isotope, before transporting it back to earth. With the numbers factoring out to around one million tons of lunar soil to yield about seventy tonnes He-3, it will surely be a massive endeavor. Although, China’s recent accomplishment in December of 2013, with the landing of a robot on the lunar surface. Successfully completing stage 3 of its “Lunar Exploration Progammme”, has led to a projected mission for the mining of Helium-3 in the 2030s. Also in past years, 2006 Nikolai Sevastyanov, the head of the Russian Space Corporation, Energia proclaimed Russia would have a permanent base on the lunar surface, with industrial production of Helium-3 by 2015. As we can clearly see, Sevastyanov was very ambitious in his claims, but has not quite gotten there. The U.S. however, is planning to have “a permanent base on the lunar poles by 2024” with the mining of Helium-3, as one of its agendas.

   In conclusion, whoever the pioneer of the futures next source of power may be, we know with great degree of certainty that the world is coming upon major change.


Work cited


Helium-3, Power Generation by Christopher Barnett




Roger Weller