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BES-5 is an acronym for a Russian thermo-electric generator design in which the heat source is a U 235 fast fission nuclear reactor.
Usually radioisotope thermal generators use Pu 238 as a heat source because it has the lowest shielding requirements. Nonetheless, its decay over time makes it inappropriate for use in deep-space exploration applications, where spaceships need to travel for decades.

The FNR activates just when the critical mass is attained. Then, using a mechanical control system, the reactor can be dormant for centuries and, when necessary, re-activated.

The design of a FNR is similar to an atomic bomb where there is a sub-critical mass (≈90% of the critical mass) where it is inserted a rod of fissile material.[citation needed]

The fission of 2.6 kg of U 235 (5% of the critical mass) is able to produce a constant output of 28 kW for 250 years (2 kW of electricity). Although the thermal output of a 52 kg mass of Pu238 would be identical it would decline through time and, after 250 years would be reduced to 4 kW due to its half-life of 87.7 years.[citation needed]