US Nuclear Corp. has signed a trade agreement with a Polish company to market and sell helium-3 and other rare elements taken from the moon.
The Canoga Park manufacturer was contacted by Solar System Resources Corp. Sp. in Krakow about becoming the company’s sales agent, US Nuclear Chief Executive Robert Goldstein said.
“They are going to ship these materials to us, and we are going to sell them in North America or to anybody who wants them,” Goldstein said.
The agreement between the two companies is a continuation of a letter of intent signed in February in which Solar System would deliver 500 kilograms, or about a half ton, of the helium-3 isotope by 2028-2032. The current price for helium-3 is $16.6 billion a ton, according to a release from US Nuclear.
Helium-3 is extremely rare to find on earth but is in abundance on the moon, where it gets deposited by solar winds. In the U.S. there are about 29 kilograms of helium-3 available, with another 187 kilograms mixed in with stored natural gas, the company said.
“The bottom line is that there is a large shortage of helium-3 on Earth, and with the current supply allocated for border security, there is none leftover for other uses,” US Nuclear said in a statement about the letter of intent in February.
Goldstein said that one use of helium-3 is for detecting neutrons created when building a nuclear bomb.
“If you see any neutrons at all coming out of somebody’s car or building or manufacturing plant, they are dealing with fissionable material,” Goldstein explained.
Additionally, the element can also be used as an accelerant or booster to fusion generators to power spacecraft.
“You can get a lot more energy if you use helium-3 than if you do fusion some other way,” Goldstein said.
US Nuclear is getting into fusion power for spacecraft through its investment in Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies Inc., or MIFTI, a Tustin company that is developing thermonuclear fusion technology.
The firm has exclusive rights to make and market the fusion reactors, which MIFTI plans to commercialize. The technology has applications in the development of radiopharmaceutical products used in nuclear medicine procedures; clean energy; and to power spaceships to Mars and beyond.
Fusion power is created by joining together two or more lighter atoms versus fission power, which is created by splitting apart atoms.
There are educational institutions, such as the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab that talk about their fusion generators but that need helium-3 to power them, Goldstein said.
The lab is managed by Princeton University for the U.S. Energy Department.
“It is just talk unless they can get the helium-3,” he added.
The benefit of MIFTI’s Staged Z-pinch technology is that it doesn’t necessarily need the rare element to operate.
“MIFTI can do with or without the helium-3 but some of these other guys their process works only with helium-3,” Goldstein said.
Obtaining the helium-3, lanthanide or rare earth metals and other materials from space deposits will come down to Solar System. According to the agreement, after the initial delivery of a half-ton of helium-3, the company will deliver in subsequent years 300 kilograms or more of the element.