Nuclear drive trains for long haul transport

Nuclear drive trains for long haul transport

Despite the obvious fact that CO2 has no discernible influence on climate nor weather.

Despite the fact higher CO2 in the atmosphere leads to a literally greener planet.

Doom sayers profess any CO2 content in the atmosphere higher than 350 ppm will be our downfall. Regardless that farmers using enclosed growing facilities upping the CO2 to 1000 ppm to get the best crop results without killing the workers by some incomprehensible mechanism part of humanity is convinced that more CO2 in the atmosphere is the cause of global warming, global cooling and changes in weather patterns.


Assuming that what are the alternatives? Wind and solar are too independent on natures whims and the day/night cycle to be a reliable source of sustainable energy as United Kingdom/Germany/Australia and many other nations have empirically proven.

So what is a real alternative? Only one. Direct matter->energy conversion. At this point in time the most efficient one, nuclear fusion, is unfortunately not yet within our level of technical prowess.

So the next best thing, Nuclear Fission, is our only realistic alternative to wind/solar. It delivers reliable energy with the least accidents per capita per kw/h per person.

How does this tie in with transport? Well since space-stations need a safe, reliable powerplants the development of those come to being.

Examples which could be adapted to transport are:

The SAFE-400 space fission reactor (Safe Affordable Fission Engine) is a 400 kWt HPS of 100 kWe to power a space vehicle using two Brayton power systems – gas turbines driven directly by the hot gas from the reactor. Heat exchanger outlet temperature is 880°C. The reactor has 127 identical heatpipe modules made of molybdenum, or niobium with 1% zirconium. Each has three fuel pins 1 cm diameter, nesting together into a compact hexagonal core 25 cm across. The fuel pins are 70 cm long (fuelled length 56 cm), the total heatpipe length is 145 cm, extending 75 cm above the core, where they are coupled with the heat exchangers. The core with reflector has a 51 cm diameter. The mass of the core is about 512 kg and each heat exchanger is 72 kg. SAFE has also been tested with an electric ion drive.

A smaller version of this kind of reactor is the HOMER-15 – the Heatpipe-Operated Mars Exploration Reactor. It is a15 kW thermal unit similar to the larger SAFE model, and stands 2.4 metres tall including its heat exchanger and 3 kWe Stirling engine (see above). It operates at only 600°C and is therefore able to use stainless steel for fuel pins and heatpipes, which are 1.6 cm diameter. It has 19 sodium heatpipe modules with 102 fuel pins bonded to them, 4 or 6 per pipe, and holding a total of 72 kg of fuel. The heatpipes are 106 cm long and fuel height 36 cm. The core is hexagonal (18 cm across) with six BeO pins in the corners. The total mass of reactor system is 214 kg, and diameter is 41 cm.


With minimal investment/longevity/efficiency as compared to EV Long Haul vehicles those vehicles equipped with such an derived reactor could not only drive around for 10 years on a single refuel, they could also be powered to haul long haul truck trains as currently being used in Australia.

Even better, when not being used as transport vehicle the onboard reactor could be fitted with a generator and supply electricity to the local grid.

All it needs is an open mind and a reasonable amount of engineering capability