nuclear-carsIn 1958, the Ford Motor Company produced a mock-up of the Ford Nucleon, a nuclear-powered automobile. No working propotypes were ever produced but, at the time, people living in the “atomic age” seemed confident that nuclear-powered personal transport was just around the corner. Fast-forward to 2012 and, post-Fukushima, people are much less comfortable with the idea of strapping a fission reactor to their bonnet.

Debating Europe recently held a live head-to-head debate on the question of the future of nuclear energy in Europe. The two panellists were Dr. Patrick Moore, Co-founder of Greenpeace and Co-Chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, and Jo Leinen MEP, Member and former Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment. One of the many questions we received ahead of that event came from Peter, who asked:

If cars, trucks, buses and other transport means were to be nuclear powered would we not solve a great part of the climate change problem and reduce global warming by 2 degrees?

Although we ran out of time during the event itself and didn’t get a chance to pose this question, we arranged follow-up interviews with both panelists to run some extra questions past them. First up is Dr. Patrick Moore. To see how he answered your questions, click the videos below.

Let’s start with a question from Lluís, asking if real-time monitoring of nuclear power stations might help increase trust amongst members of the public:

Next, we had a question from Darek who asked if smaller, nuclear micro-reactors could help deliver energy on a regional or local level, as opposed to what he called the “unsafe, accident prone, macro regional water cooled monsters based on the mid-20th century models?”

Which leads us nicely to the question about nuclear cars! If reactors can be made as small as Dr. Moore says, can we expect to be zooming around in atomic automobiles in the future?

After the event, we also looked at some of the reaction from the blogs. Neil, who attended the event in Brussels, wrote a post on his blog criticising Patrick Moore for some of the figures he cited during the debate. We took this criticism to Dr. Moore, to see how he would respond.

Finally, we received a critical comment from Michael, who argues that “uranium mining in Europe has essentially stopped since more than 10 years. Where will the uranium for European nuclear power plants will come from?

Lastly, we asked our partner, Gallup, to do some number-crunching for us using their Zetema sentiment-analysis tool. They conducted content analysis of English-language blog posts in the EU-27 (5,700 posts) and the US (1,600 posts) from January to December 2011 using the keyword “nuclear”. Their technology allowed them to see whether posts in Europe and the US had been reacting positively or negatively to nuclear energy during 2011. You can see the results below (the red line indicates positive or negative sentiment, the blue bars indicate the number of blog posts published in each month):

What do YOU think? Is nuclear technology safe enough to power cars, buses and trains? Should we have micro-nuclear reactors producing energy at the local level? Do we need real-time reporting on the status of nuclear reactors in Europe? And are we running out of uranium? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers for their reactions.

13 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Axel Klug

    It was an unrealistic vision of the early 1950s and I think nuclear technology isnt safe enough for anything! Even not for power plants > 3-Miles-Island > Tschernobyl > Fukushima > …. > Cattenom?

    • avatar
      Pritam Sarkar

      Nuclear energy is safe if properly used. Nuclear energy doesn’t always manifests as Large big nuclear rectors, RTG’s, Nuclear batteries provide a very safe option. They are used in remote scientific station, Human spacecraft, Probes like curiosity, Voyager and voyager .

  2. avatar
    Pierre Olivier

    Giving the possibility of an uncontrol dissemination of fissionable materials easily accessible to create small home made A-bomb ? In the case of accident, what can will happened ? Some years ago, gas vehicule were forbidden in parking because of risks of explosion, so with micro-nuclear reactor…

    • avatar
      Pritam Sarkar

      RTG’s don’t explode and can never explode. Nuclear batteries are also also used in pacemaker. Have you ever heard of a pacemaker explosion!! LOL

  3. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    Certainly not with existing technology but it is an idea that should be explored if advances can be made on how it can be used safely, for all purposes. At the moment, nuclear power in use anywhere (other than medical) is madness, in my opinion…pj

    • avatar
      Pritam Sarkar

      Nuclear battery and RTG technology existed from 1960’s. How thw hell is voyager 1 still able to transmit information back to earth??

  4. avatar
    michael Dittmar

    Mr Moore’s answer shows
    a) that he seems to agree that Europe has exhausted uranium

    b) that he neither knows the hard facts about uranium mining and resources nor about the difference
    between fast reactors and breeder reactors.

    More details can be found in many places but here is just
    a key statement from the NEA Press declaration:

    Even in the high-growth scenario to 2035, less than half of the identified resources described in this edition would be consumed. The challenge remains to develop mines in a timely and environmentally sustainable fashion as uranium demand increases. A strong market will be required for these resources to be developed within the time frame required to meet future uranium demand.

    In addition, current projections of uranium mine production capacities could satisfy projected high-case world uranium requirements until the late 2020s. However, given the challenges and length of time associated with increasing production at existing mines and opening new mines, it is unlikely that all production increases will proceed as planned.

    or even better here:

    • avatar
      Pritam Sarkar

      What about throrium, Strontium 90, etc?

  5. avatar
    Mário Lobo

    10 small reactors won’t produce as much electricity as a single reactor 10 times bigger….
    so… why not produce electricity and built a network of battery change service stations?

  6. avatar
    Panos Mentesidis

    The answer to that is absolutely not!!! Who thought of bringing a dead and dangerous american idea back to life? Nuclear Energy is safe for large reactors far away from towns and proper disposal of wastes not in cars that anyone can buy! Imagine seeing the 18year old of your neighborhood trying to kit-out and modify his nuclear powered car?!?!?!?! Yankee ideas from the cold war will prove deadly!!!

  7. avatar
    catherine benning

    Nuclear cars would sove nothing only create a further lunacy.

    However, cars do need to have a more user friendly method of motion. Europeans are birhgt people and someone out there has the answer. The problem is, the car industry doesn’t want to solve the dilemma as what they have suits them and the multi nationals who surround the energy requirement.

    Time to rethink the entire set up, and do away with tax advantages that do not help the environment. Nothing works as quick as cash incentives for moving the reluctant managers into action.

  8. avatar
    Vitaly Tomilov

    I’m sure the nuclear energy will be used for vehicles everywhere, just not in the way envisioned in 1950-s. Instead, nuclear power will be used for recharging high-capacity batteries in vehicles, because once we have those batteries, we will need much higher output at recharging stations than available today.

    Instant-charge will be a distinctive and much-required feature of most battery-powered machines in the future.

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