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Thorium is a high power substance that can contains large amounts of energy in a small space. How much would it cost to install and maintain one on a large starship?

As well as using solar panels, the reactor could be used to power core electronics and life support systems. My point being that it could be a way to power future deep space exploration missions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Key fact missing here is what the space ship does. Answering this question requires knowing the power demand and the mission and engine design will change that. If you want this question answered would suggest either specifying a power need or just take the ISS solar panels as a model of power needs for a small crew (100 kw) $\endgroup$ – GremlinWranger Nov 1 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ If the spacecraft was an exploration vehicle: 1000 kw - a rather large starship. $\endgroup$ – Tim Li Nov 1 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ There isn't going to be a good answer to this question. Nuclear reactors aren't a commodity item, and spaceflight hardware is notoriously difficult to do cost estimation for. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Nov 1 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Put it as what would be the cost of a nuclear reactor on earth(using thorium). Then you might be able to get a closer measurment. $\endgroup$ – Tim Li Nov 1 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ Note that a "large starship" is a fictional device. (Assuming you don't mean a SpaceX Starship - note the capital letter) I'm voting to close this as "unclear" because of insufficiently defined requirements. No one can size a power system without knowing what it needs to power. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 1 at 12:33
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There has been a lot of work on space nuclear reactors, though I don't believe any have used Thorium. It can probably be compared to these older reactors.

Notable uses for nuclear fission reactors include: - Providing power in the outer planets and beyond where there's not enough sunlight - In those situations, having hundreds of kilowatts for radio transmissions would enable vastly higher bandwidth comms. - General purpose power sources as you describe - Nuclear-electric propulsion -- large reactors provide enough power for ion or other electric plasma thrusters. - The various improvements that become possible when a large source of power is available.

Check out the SNAP project, and RORSAT.

Note that a reactor is normally placed at one end of a spacecraft, not the middle. This allows one to get away with only shielding one side of the reactor.

You also can make Nuclear Thermal Rockets using nuclear reactors; these have twice the specific impulse of chemical rockets and fairly high thrust. They use very specialized (and insanely high power density) reactors, and I don't think there has been any research in fueling them with thorium.

A number of (non-thorium) nuclear reactors have been flight tested. Ironically, most of them were not in any of the above applications where the use of a nuclear reactor is

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    $\begingroup$ The question asks for a cost estimate. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 1 at 11:49

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