Nuclear powered Planes, Trains and Automobiles


To quote L.P. Heartly’s 1953 book “The G-Between”, “The past is a different country they do things differently there”. That’s definitely something that could be applied to our attitude to the newly discovered atomic power in the late 1940s and 50s. Within just a few years after the first atomic bombs have been dropped on Japan it seems as though the atom would be the cure-all for all our energy needs with power “too cheap to meter” as was once quoted. Whilst ships and submarines of the leading navies went nuclear, companies put forward ideas for atomic powered planes, trains, yes and indeed automobiles. The first idea of using a radioactive power source for a car in this place radium dates back to 1903 and in 1937 Further analysis of a concept thought that it would need 50 tons of shielding to protect the driver. But with the development of small scale self-contained reactors for ships and submarines in the 1950s the idea of atomic cars was back on the table. In 1958 Ford unveiled a uranium powered concept car called with a typically 1950s futuristic name the “Ford Nucleon” in essence it was a scaled down submarine reactor in the back of the car which would heat stored water into high-pressure steam which will then drive two turbines. one to power the wheels any other to drive an electrical generator. Ford engineers anticipated that it would have a range of around 5,000 miles before you would need to nip into your local Ford dealers and have uranium core swapped out for a new one. The passenger compartment was situated over the front wheels allowing for the bulk of the reactor and a heavy shielding to be more centrally placed and keep you as far away from the reactor as possible. As was the optimism of the 1950s and the naivety of the general public, it was believed that nuclear power would eventually replaced petrol power in the future. Something which doesn’t really bear thinking about if you imagine a car crash returning to a major nuclear incident. Ford only ever made scale models of the Nucleon as they anticipated the miniaturization of the reactors and lighter shielding materials. aAs these didn’t appear and with the increasing public awareness around radiation and nuclear waste, the project was dropped and the models ended up in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Now if you thought the Ford Nucleon was a bit far-fetched, just look at the French Simca Fulga, a 1958 concept car designed by Robert Opron. This was meant to show how cars might look in the year 2000 powered by a nuclear reactor with voice control and guided by radar and an autopilot that communicated via a control tower. At speeds of over 150 kilometers per hour, two of the wheels would retract and it would balance on the remaining two with the aid of gyroscopes. Also in France in 1957-58 to the Arbel Symetric was proposed with either a gas generator or 40 kilowatt nuclear reactor called the “Genestatom”. This would use radioactive cartridges made from nuclear waste however, the French government disproved the use of nuclear fuel in cars and the development that was stopped. Of all the land-based forms of transport trains were the most likely candidates to be nuclear powered especially those travelling across large areas where electrification have not been done. In the U.S. a nuclear-powered locomotive called the X-12 was put forward in a design study for the Association of American railroads and several other companies by Dr. Lyle Borst, one of the early members of the Manhattan Project which had created the first atomic bomb. The X-12 would use liquid uranium-235 oxide dissolved in sulfuric acid in a three foot by one foot container surrounded by 200 tons of shielding. The reactor would then create steam to power turbines to drive four electrical generators. These would create the 7000 horsepower of electricity to power the motors. This was about the same as a four loco unit with each loco having 1,750 horsepower but would only need refueling once a year although it did cost about twice the price of a four loco unit. The whole locomotive would be 160 feet long and weigh 300 tons and would have an articulated rear section where all the cooling radiators and condensers would be placed. But the cost of developing such a locomotive without government subsidies and the highly enriched Uranium-235 together with the huge cost of liability insurance in case of an accident made the X-12 uneconomical and it was not pursued by any of the train companies. However in 1950 Soviet Russia money was not the same issue as it was in the U.S. In places like the North Far, East and Central Asian desert it was thought that electrification of newly built railway lines was not advised at the time. So in 1956 the Ministry of Transport for the USSR came up with a plan to make super-sized nuclear trains which would run on tracks three times the width of normal ones. The train could be used in areas where there was little in a way of supplies or infrastructure to support normal railways and whilst it was stopped it could also serve as a small power station and generate electricity and hot water heating for weeks or months if required in remote locations. The train would use the super-sized tracks to accommodate the extra weight of all the radiation shielding but whilst that might be enough to protect the drivers and passengers in front and behind the loco, the sides and the underneath might still irradiate the environment. The other problem is that infrastructure like embankments, bridges, tunnels would all have to be enlarged for the extra wide track over thousands of miles in some of the world’s coldest and toughest environments. This and the radiation problem put an end to the super-sized Soviet nuclear train. And so we finally come to planes. The idea of nuclear power planes in the 1950s was that bombers carrying atomic bombs could be kept permanently on standby flying around the Arctic circle for days or weeks at a time without the need to refuel and ready to attack at a moment’s notice. Both the U.S. and the Soviets worked on nuclear powered planes. There were two methods of making nuclear powered jet engines. One was simple and lightweight and this was the direct cycle engine. In place of a combustion chamber, the air comes into the jet and in his directed through the reactor core, this would cool the corel and heat the air which will then be directed back into the jet exhaust as thrust. The problem with this method is that if the shielding is not good enough then the air could become irradiated so you would leave a trail of radiation behind a plane. The second method used an indirect way of linking the air via a heat exchange to the reactor, so that the air could not get irradiated but it also meant a lot of extra heavy plumbing and complexity which would make the plane heavier and slower and more susceptible to attack. The biggest problem that both the U.S. and the Soviet faced with nuclear powered planes was getting enough thrust from the engines and the extra weight of the shielding to protect the crew. While no actual flights were made by nuclear powered engines in the U.S. they did use a highly modified Convair B-36 peacemaker with a real reactor to test a distributed method of radiation shielding. By the time president Kennedy was elected in 1961, the direct cycle engine developed by General Electric was regularly making high levels of thrust under nuclear power in ground-based tests. Work on what was to be the WS-125 long-range nuclear bomber had continued from 1954 1961 but when new intelligence from the U-2 spy planes and satellites showed the the Soviets had much less in the way of bombers when the U.S. thought and that the Russian nuclear power bombers just didn’t exist, Kennedy scrapped the WS-125 bomber program in favor of more missile submarine development. But after the fall of communism in Russia in the late 1980s it was revealed that the Soviets had actually flown a nuclear-powered version of a Tu-95 “Bear” long-range bomber 40 times between 1961 and 1969. Under pressure in believing that the Americans were close to creating a nuclear bomber the Soviets flew tests with direct cycle nuclear powered engines. However the engines were inefficient and spewed radiation into the air. The plane also had to fly with no shielding to protect the crew otherwise it would have been too heavy to take off. Although it worked within three years some of the crew had died due to the radiation exposure on the test flights and this was the real Achilles heel of the nuclear power planes. Whilst the engines may work the shielding was still a major problem. Today we could with new technologies which have arisen since the 1950s build smaller and safer nuclear reactors. We’ve already done this a spacecraft like the Voyager probes of the 1970s which are still going in deep space and for Landers like the Mars Curiosity rover 2012. Already nuclear-powered surveillance drones that don’t need crew or heavy shielding that could fly for weeks or months and nuclear powered trains in Russia are being proposed once more. So the future may well glow bright with portable nuclear power and as always please subscribe, rate and share.

100 thoughts on “Nuclear powered Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  1. they could couple an atomic reactor to hydrogen producing factory 😛 btw is there a relation between radiation and hairloss? 😉

  2. At least nobody suggested reaching for the nuclear option to switch on the TV set

  3. Screw stealth, screw the planet.. But.. Like not our part… Introducing the plane no one wants to shoot down 🙄😂

  4. I never fail to learn interesting things from these films, proper great use of 'you tube', better than viewing 'people slipping on ice' etc…although that's pretty funny though, thank you, please carry on

  5. Russia+nuclear power=the rest of the world will get radiated.

  6. I don't trust atomic fission. Just too damn dangerous. You can have, POTENTIALLY, a million successive, but one failure would be catastrophic .

  7. would be awesome if they made smartphones with nuclear core reactor instead of regular lithium batteries.

  8. Ridiculous programme. Nikola Tesla offered the world Free, Unlimited electricity forever (naturally extracted from the atmosphere) so they banned his invention. J.Edgar Hoover (FBI) confiscated all Tesla's Scientific papers upon his death in 1943. Deemed it all Top Secret and buried it somewhere. Why, because the Electrical Generating Industrialists said the invention would bankrupt them, and put all their workers in the street. And we are now short on power !!!!

  9. An the Ford Nucleon went went on to inspire the Chryslus Corvega line of cars found in the Fallout games

  10. Complete and utter madness nuclear powered cars I wonder how many car crashes it would take to destroy England..?

  11. that locomotive is a WAG9 https://www.google.fi/search?hl=en&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1920&bih=937&ei=zChlXciKNbCvrgTpjobACQ&q=wag9&oq=wag9&gs_l=img.3..0l7j0i5i30j0i24l2.103.2045..2435…0.0..0.140.533.2j3……0….1..gws-wiz-img…..0..35i39.XOQkhh5aZbU&ved=0ahUKEwjIoMCOjaPkAhWwl4sKHWmHAZgQ4dUDCAU&uact=5

  12. Lead cooled reactors are being made now that have a heat transfer material that also acts a shielding. This is the key to nuclear powered trains as it shields and cools the reactors to heat air and run turbines by molten lead heat exchange loops.

  13. the 50s illustration for the news are better than shi*ty animations on news nowadays

  14. Also about the arbel symmetric (the nuclear one and the flying one) they are only scam and never existed there was two guy, a engineer (who was a real engineer) and an another guy who basically stole the work of the first guy, after that he sell the car in precommand and the day the car was released, the guy vanished, with the car, and all the research, and because people don't like do scammed, it's backfire on the engineer

  15. two mistakes:
    1) Tu-95LAL never flew under nuclear power. It only tested the nuclear reactor shielding and radiation levels inside and in the air, exactly the same way as B-36. As you may guess, shielding is a second mistake)

  16. I'm not sure how to put this, but this guy has an awesome voice. I actually WANTED to listen to his voice. Unlike many other youtube channels, where it's annoying voices you have to listen to 🙂

  17. well I suppose you could make a nuclear-powered drone that does not need to hide from an enemy because shooting it down would be too dangerous. Instead of stealth planes I mean. kinda like if a creeper is inside one of your Minecraft builds.

  18. I find it funny how all the artists depicting chicken out at three or four electrons, and thus depicting nuclear Energy as driven by Lithium.

  19. Like honestly history has proven that nuclear power is dangerous. Just stop this nonsense already, to many people died of this. It's disrespectful to all whom has died!

  20. Am I the only one need the Nuclear Powered Nokia 3310???
    Because eternity is our goal

  21. Entertaining video, but I think the ending was misleading. The end examples aren't Nuclear Reactors as described but are Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTGs). There isn't a new shielding technology behind these, they mostly produce alpha emissions which can literally be stopped by a sheet of paper. These also produce quite pathetic useful power output due to the incredibly low effeciency of the processes they use, but are however useful where there is no other reliable long term energy source available. (e.g. being really far from the sun in the outer solar system, or where solar panels may get covered in dust, for those examples given).

    I've also just realised this video is 2 years old and replying here is a waste of time, but meh. Already wrote it.

  22. 2:23 I never thought someone would be so dumb as to make spoilers with the style of airplane's tail-fins.
    "Hu-ghu-dur, cars in the future will fly, let's add tail-fins."

  23. Advancements in Nuclear energy would create advancements in Nuclear medicine equaling out the dangers. Bring back the 50's for the love of god.

  24. Nuclear powered cars and planes, as well as flying cars, are a very bad idea currently. People can barely maintain control of their relatively safe cars as it is. A major wreck happens daily in virtually every city/town in the world that has traffic. Our technology is not capable of producing a reactor that can handle pretty much a nuclear explosion without rupturing or leaking fuel/radiation.

  25. Nuclear powered cars would be virtually impossible due to gamma radiation penetrating the aluminum and the car would have to be so heavy it would take 50 years for engines to even be close to being able to accelerate the car

  26. No, no, no! The future (at least short term) should not be nuclear focused! Unless we are talking about achieving 90%+ efficiency or powering something in space, let's just focus on perfecting fossil fuel engines, developing electric based ones and the harvesting of renewable energy!

  27. Only problems are vehicle crashes and geting cancer from driving

  28. People who talk with their hands like this guy makes me think of this woman https://youtu.be/LvNPKwz4Ghw

  29. Uranium does not = nuclear…
    Uranium industry has all to do with money and nuclear bombs not with what is the best nuclear material to make electricity and power large vehicles.

  30. 5000 miles! Thats it? So like every time you get your oil changed… I wouldn't trust a Pennzoil 10 minute reactor swap.

  31. Nuclear plane was a ploy to get funds, nuclear car is pure madness, but a nuclear train. . . it might be an idea !

  32. Tell us what you think about the potential nuclear future…. Are you optimistic? Pessimistic? Nervous?

  33. Only 5000 miles that's like half a year or a quarter year for some people. Not worth the price of the swap I'm sure. A Railway would be something to look at.

  34. 🤔 makes alot of sense millions of vehicle accidents let's make them radioactive 👍🤨 ☣☢ let's kill more people that ain't involved in the wreck

  35. Fly continuously? Impossible, as we are now just learning about the detrimental affects that wind and dust particles are having on the lead edges of the huge 300ft Prop Blades on the Wind-Turbine Generators. On a Plane's Wings and Structure, that kind of damage would be exponential. Trying to keep Planes/Drones in the Air is beyond stupid.

  36. home nuclear charging stations might be nice.. power the house and the cars and feed back into the grid

  37. A railway with 3 metres gauge was already a concept by the Nazis in order to service the whole eurasian continent, but a nuclear power source was not foreseen.

  38. Only 200 years of Uranium fuel is left but it was wrong. 135 years of supply is left.

  39. Bad idea because terrorists would just take the uranium from the car and make a diy nuclear weapon

  40. Man, humanity went nuts over that shite. To the point of risking their safety!!! HA ha how foolish…..

  41. If the dc10 was nuclear powered then the whole world would be wiped out

  42. 10:00 russian pensioneers eat out of garbage cans (you can find hundreds of videos on YouTube, just make a request in russian), on the streets, in every city of russssia. What is the talk about, when they can’t pay pension, build infrustructure, develop economy, etc.?

  43. Kids if you don't eat your uranium then you don't get any ice cream for dessert.

  44. "Atomic Batteries to Power. Turbines to Speed." — Dick Grayson / Robin (1966-68)

  45. probes and lander don't use nuclear reactors though… they use thermo electric generators that create very little energy from decay… there is a world of difference between that (to power some systems and a few motors) and a reactor, which is a complicated and dangerous piece of kit that effectively manages a controlled nuclear explosion to produce large quantities of energy.

  46. My car is fusion powered
    Millions of years ago some plants stored some energy from a huge fusion reactor then eventually got buried

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