You Too Can Have a Nuclear Car (and Boat, and Jetpack)

In light of the wild success of Brian’s thoughts on Thorium this week, I thought I’d explore some other uses for nuclear power.

1338373267378069613.jpgImage from lemonfridge on Flickr

Obviously, I’m not going to be entirely serious here– but once upon a time, before we knew the dangers of nuclear power, and just how difficult it would be to squeeze it into small packages, it was the wave of the future, and we were dreaming up ways to squeeze it into everything.

13383732671468067980.jpgMeet the Ford Nucleon. Image, and info, from Wikipedia

This 1958 concept car is powered by entirely by, you got it, a nuclear reactor. Mounted on twin booms at the rear of the automobile, the reactor was supposed to be designed to last around 5,000 miles. Can’t go having cars that have infinite power sources, now can we? At which point, it would be lifted out and replaced at a refuelling station that would largely have replaced the gas station. You’ll notice that the nucleon has what Wikipedia calls an “extremely cab-forward design.” That’s exactly what you fear: a measure to protect the inhabitants from the radiation of the power plant of the car. Oh, the fifties…

13383732671262637384.jpgImage from

I don’t suppose it’s fair for me to categorize nuclear ships as “crazy futuristic things from a naive time” when there are nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers roaming the globe with my country’s flag as I type. However, the Savannah here is a little different– namely, she was a merchant ship. Despite being owned by the U.S. government, she carried cargo and passengers from 1964 to 1970, when it was decided that she was outmoded. She was subsequently mothballed. However, most recently – it’s been said she’s being converted to a museum.

1338373267270041004.jpgWhy yes, that is a jet engine. Image from

Above is the HTRE-3 nuclear Jet Engine, a prototype that never made it into the air because the aircraft they wanted to use would have required a runway that was nearly three miles long due to the enormous amount of weight involved.

If you have any more cool nuclear gadgets, we’d love to hear about them!