As a source of food, would it be possible to have fish and/or plants living inside a water tank situated between the fusion or fission power plant and the crew quarters of a ship?
The ship in question is a mining barge operating in the asteroid belt, although the idea may be transferrable to interstellar craft as well.
The water supply would also be used to provide fuel for thrusters and engines, as well as for drinking water (using reverse osmosis and mixed-bed filters to purify it). Additionally, the refining process would use large amounts of water.
The water supply would be replenished from asteroids.
Would a lining or special construction material be required to assist in radiation shielding? Ideally something available in the asteroid belt, or refinable in space.
The timeframe is within the next two centuries or so.
I'm looking at a crew size of around 20-30. A semi-automated mining and refinery vessel. No main engines, designed to be moved to new locations by the eccentric orbit of the asteroid currently being mined, and by tugs. So mass and inertia would be an issue, hence looking at a multi-use shield.
Personal note: I worked 1000km into the desert at a nickel and cobalt mine and refinery. About the only things we had to bring in from outside were natural gas and sulphur. Everything else, we provided "in-house", including water.
The water came from underground bores, very high in calcium and other trace elements. It was stored in dams, which had fish, weeds, small crustaceans like lobsters, dead birds and lizards, frogs, you name it. We had our own water treatment plant. "Raw" or untreated water could be used for many of the refinery processes without any problem.
After reverse osmosis, we had potable water for drinking, and safety showers. It was extremely low in impurities, much lower than city water.
After mixed bed filtering (using cat ion/an ion filtering), we had demineralised water. Fewer impurities than bottled distilled water from the supermarket, and useful for running through equipment that might otherwise have been affected by impurities (boilers and steam turbines for example).
Another note: I was at Chernobyl a few years ago, well after the reactor explosion. From my limited understanding, the greatest threat came from actual particles of dirt or sand that could stick to your clothes or be ingested with food or from smoking cigarettes/touching your mouth.
There were many places even within the reactor building itself where people continue to work right now. Other areas were strictly off limits for the next 2,000 years.
Moss, for example was a big no-no. It seemed to absorb radiation. Cats, dogs and other feral animals were not to be touched at all, as they were high enough up the food chain to be affected by eating smaller animals, as well as rolling around in radioactive dirt.
Something like 2,500 people still work at Chernobyl, and only wear protective suits in the bad areas (relying on dosimeter badges on their clothes, and testing themselves when they return to their offices).