NASA's Fission Surface Power Project is based at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The intent of the program is to produce a prototype unit (not to be supplied with fissionable material) for a moon base within 5 years.
This artist's concept shows a fission power system on the surface of the moon. The nuclear reactor will be buried below the lunar surface to make use of lunar soil as additional radiation shielding. The engines that convert heat energy to electricity are in the tower above the reactor, and radiators extend out from the tower to radiate into space any leftover heat energy that has not been converted to electricity.
Supported at a cost of about $10 million a year, the Fission Surface Power Project this week awarded two contracts for power conversion units, used to turn the heat of nuclear reactions into electricity.
NASA envisions needing a system capable of providing about 40 kilowatts of electricity -- about what's used to power eight average homes in the United States.
SF fans may recall the nuclear-powered bases in films like Aliens.