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You are in: Home > Cars > Ford Nucleon: Nuclear power plant on wheels


Ford Nucleon: Nuclear power plant on wheels

Ford Nucleon, 1958In the fifties of the twentieth century, people in the United States had a fascination for the modern, futuristic and any ideology that preached new ways to create a consumer society. Those were golden years. Many engineers raised a fantastic future. In the future all problems will disappear thanks to technology and everyone would live in a welfare state. There was thought that the planet had limited resources. Never mind issues such as environment, ecology and sustainable development.

The automotive world in those years did not escape the fever for the future, again, was one of the sectors that announced a future happy and carefree. In those years, all companies had models of what would be the car of the future. Great travel techniques that allowed more than 300 km/h electronically guided while the occupants were playing dominoes quietly inside. Another common traits that identify the prototypes of the 50 were the body with large fins and inspired by jet aircraft, radar and even gyros allowing (theoretically) to smuggle the front wheels and guide the car through rear spoilers from the 150 km/h.

Obviously one of the most important tasks of the technicians was to develop engines that use gasoline as fuel. Some studies could eventually translate into reality, such as gas turbine engine from Chrysler, assembled at fifty pre-series prototypes. Other studies have succumbed to reality. Other fortunately there were more than a prototype.

One of these latter cases was the subject of this article, the Ford Nucleon presented in spring 1958. It was a nuclear-powered car. A car very dangerous.



Beautiful on the outside, inside dangerous

As shown in the photograph, the Ford Nucleon was very attractive, in line with the prototypes of those years. Aviation-inspired bodywork, very streamlined and stylized to obtain a high degree of penetration into the air. The cabin, with a one-piece windshield, very new at the time, was well advanced with the intention to separate as much as possible the two occupants of the small nuclear reactor that had their backs. (I have read nuclear reactor? Yes, here is written nuclear reactor!). Apparently this prototype look like a van with the back bare, but your line is tied to the engine that incorporates and especially its large turbine.

What made the Ford Nucleon an unprecedented vehicle was not his line. It was his engine consisting of a turbine through a nuclear isotope was enough energy to move the vehicle. Each of the isotopes designed for vehicle autonomy guaranteed minimum of 8.000 Kilometers (5.000 miles). After all the isotope, is very easily replaced by another again. This substitution would have to perform at service stations (if the project had succeeded) and handling was fairly easy. Any untrained person could perform this operation.



Reality in the near future?

What I did not think Ford technicians (or if they thought they preferred to ignore public opinion) was the consequences of mass production of these dangerous vehicles. For example, what happens in case of breaking the isotope in an accident? Where to put the isotopes and the car when he got his life? Another Machiavellian but realistic reflection assails us to mind: In a mass production of isotopes exist much more likely that some of them disappear to be assigned to criminal or terrorist acts, so that public safety would be compromised to a large degree.

Obviously, the idea of a nuclear-powered car is risky and dangerous, but do not forget that nuclear energy is used in other means of transport. When designing the Ford Nucleon, the United States three years ago they had put into operation the first nuclear-powered submarine moved. Currently, a large number of submarines and surface ships (military and civilian) use this energy. In these cases it is accepted without much opposition. Nuclear energy is also used in satellites, although the reliability of the rockets used to put into orbit round only 90%. In 10% of cases, there may be some kind of problem that affects the safety of people.

But warning, there´s more ... The car driven by nuclear energy is not just an eccentricity of Ford technicians in the fifties. With the shortage of oil and the demise of this, today nuclear power is studied as a real alternative to cars and trucks.


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