America in the 1950s and 60s was having somewhat of an infatuation with nuclear energy. The possibilities seemed endless for the amount of energy that could be produced by one reactor. Could this technology be used in the consumer market?
The Ford Motor Company had an interesting answer to that technology. Enter the Ford Nucleon Concept. In 1957 Ford introduced the first nuclear power car, the Nucleon. It featured a replaceable uranium fission reactor that could be easily replaced upon depletion. Ford estimated about every 5000 miles. This car would have no noxious fumes and no loud and obnoxious internal combustion motor to upset your suburban neighbors.
Even in this highly idealistic stage of nuclear energy, the engineers at Ford knew that consumers did not want to too close to atomic energy. So they put the passenger compartment far forward of the reactor and over the front axle.
The technology Ford was drawing on was already in use by the US Navy in submarines. The problem, however, was to shrink the size of that system down in size and weight so that it would be suitable for cars. Ford speculated that this technology was on the horizon and when it arrived they would already be ahead of the competition with their concept.
Fast forward about 50 years, America is dealing with an energy dilemma. Do we continue to use fossil fuels to power our cars or do we look for other answers? The US government has clearly expressed its interest both politically and economically for research into alternative fuel sources. Companies such as Telsa have risen to fill this gap, but like a blast from the atomic age past the idea of fission-powered cars came back in 2009 Cadilac introduced their concept thorium-powered car at the Chicago Auto show. A lot of research is being conducted into thorium and its viability as a nuclear energy source.
But could we really see nuclear reactors going 80 mph down the 15?