Have Atoms, Will Travel: Mobile Soviet nuclear power plants

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Before Chernobyl, Russian engineers deployed autonomous nuclear power plants to remote locations, many of which rode on self-powered tank treads. [via Red Ferret]

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18 Comments

  1. That looks incredibly cool.
    Russian nuclear power does not have a great reputation, but it might be possible to make these things quite safe.
    Enclose the thing in 5-10 cm of lead, and that should stop everything but some of the gamma radiation. I reckon it would be safe to operate as long as one doesn’t lean on the thing for extended periods of time.

  2. I believe the US is considering developing something similarly portable, though not quite as cool. I might have even read it on here! The general idea is: a small disposable reactor that remains the property of the US, who also handle desposal. To sell to countries who aren’t allowed nukes.

  3. The US has lots of mobile nuclear power plants. However, they are being used by the US Navy for submarines and aircraft carriers.

  4. I believe the US fitted nuclear-powered taps to Russian undersea cables during the Cold War. Simple, self-contained nuclear reactors designed to be dropped into the deeps and forgotten.

  5. #9 Actually, those were powered by Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTGs) rather than reactors. Similar to the RTGs used for deep space probes, they do NOT contain a critical mass of fissile material. Rather they function like one of those portable electric coolers (eg coolmax) in reverse.

  6. Might be a bit thick of me to ask, but anyone know how these were autonomously driven? Was there similar GPS tech back then? To think about Russia using nuclear power on small beacons, in lighthouses and in a mobile aspect is cool enough, but being autonomous and that long ago? How how?

  7. Was getting assigned to crew one of these the same kinda death sentence as crewing a Soviet sub?

  8. @Dole, I believe the author misspoke by calling them autonomous. Or I need to look up the word autonomous in the dictionary.
    Best,
    -KevinC

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