when someone had the brilliant idea to design a car powered by a nuclear reactor

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With each new technology, questions about car safety are brought to the fore. It happened with combustion engines, it happened with gas and it is happening with electricity. But didn’t anyone think about security when a car powered by a nuclear reactor?


Of course, it would be a problem to solve in the future. Perhaps now, perhaps in a future that is yet to come. Something like this, we imagine, must have passed through the minds that devised the Ford Nucleona scale prototype that was designed to be powered by a nuclear reactor.

And it is that the 50’s were a festival of crazy ideas related to nuclear energy. After unfortunately demonstrating in the Second World War the imposing energy that could be releasedthe following decades conceived nuclear energy as the perfect source.

With a science animated, in turn, by the Cold War, prototypes, designs and concepts that used nuclear energy for different purposes did not stop appearing. Transportation, of course, was also one of them. And the Ford Nucleon is the most representative.

The 194 kilometers that changed the history of the automobile have a name and surname: Bertha Benz

A load of uranium for 8,000 kilometers

Although it never ceased to be a mere concept, the Ford Nucleon has been attracting the eyes of the most curious since its presentation in 1958. Then, the American firm showed a model of what the vehicle would look like: an impressive cabin, surrounded almost exclusively by glass and a small hood.

At the rear, an extraordinarily long surface would allow it to house a small nuclear reactor. The idea is that, inside, a uranium capsule would serve as a radioactive nucleus. As in any thermonuclear reactor, the fission of uranium would cause a large amount of water vapor that would be used to move two turbines.

Ford Nucleon Henry Ford Museum 3

with one of these two turbines the wheels would move and the other would deliver the energy needed to power the rest of the vehicle’s devices. Part of this steam would be condensed again and reused in its own circuit to be part of this cycle again.

Everything designed, also for gas stations

According to Ford, since, obviously, it could never be verified, the uranium capsule could feed the reactor during 8,000 kilometers. Then, it would be necessary to replace the capsule. In fact, they had even thought of gas stations.

With the nuclear car imposed on the combustion car (who is not going to like a nuclear car from the 20th century after Christ?), gas stations would disappear and they would have to reinvent themselves as suppliers of uranium capsules.

Ford Nucleon Henry Ford Museum 1 1500x1000

In this sense, Ford may not have been too far off the mark, at least in concept. In fact, Toyota or the Namx start-up aspire to do something similar with hydrogen.

Obviously, the idea never went beyond the aforementioned model. Neither has a reactor been achieved on a scale that could be included in a car nor have they been able to solve the more than expected safety problems of carrying a device of this type on four wheels. But at least Ford left us with one of the craziest ideas in automotive history.

With each new technology, questions about car safety are brought to the fore. It happened with combustion engines, it happened…

With each new technology, questions about car safety are brought to the fore. It happened with combustion engines, it happened…

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