Nuclear-Powered Passenger Aircraft Being Considered

Ian Poll, head of the UK Government-funded Omega Project which aims to reduce environmental damage from aviation, is pushing for research to help convert the aviation industry from carbon-based fuels to nuclear-energy.

According to The Times, Poll is looking for a solution that will allow flying to continue in perpetuity, but with zero impact on the environment…and that includes crashes. Nuclear reactors could be the solution he’s looking for, but reactor-powered planes could cause a far-reaching catastrophe if they were to crash or explode.

Poll mentions that the reactors could be jettisoned on parachutes should an aircraft be in trouble, which is a good solution under normal circumstances. Should a reactor-equipped aircraft be hijacked for a 9/11 style attack, however, an entire city could be completely devastated with just one plane.

The idea for a nuclear powered plane was first pursued in the 1950s by both the US and the Soviet Union. They were trying to create bombers that could remain permanently in the sky, watching over their targets like submarines, battleships and aircraft carriers can do at sea today.

In one test, the US put an operating reactor onboard a converted, lead-lined B-36 bomber (above) to test if the crew could be safely shielded from the radiation. These programs dried up in the early 1960s after the advent of the intercontinental ballistic missile made the idea redundant.

Poll recognizes that it would take a very long time to convince the public of the need to fly on nuclear-powered craft and that it would be a huge challenge to convince people that they are safely shielded from radiation. While we’re waiting, hopefully alternative fuels will have a chance to…um…take off. My bets are on renewable and carbon-neutral algae.

Times Online via Danger Room


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