Why did the Soviet Union try to put a nuclear reactor on a car

  • Jun 24, 2022
Why did the Soviet Union try to put a nuclear reactor on a car

Today, few people remember such a Soviet automobile project as Volga-atom. Even in Soviet times, there was almost no information about him in the public space, because of which, in subsequent years, Volga-atom was overgrown with a lot of both black and white myths. So why did Soviet designers need a nuclear reactor in an ordinary car? Let's try to look at this story a little wider in order to better understand it.

Atomic Soviet car. |Photo: shnyagi.net.
Atomic Soviet car. |Photo: shnyagi.net.
Atomic Soviet car. |Photo: shnyagi.net.

One of the main black myths about "Volga-atom" comes down to what the Soviet ambassadors saw in 1958 at an exhibition in Washington American atom-mobile Ford Nucleon, after which they honestly “communized” the idea from the sworn overseas friends.

Atomic fever swept the whole world. |Photo: Yandex. News.
Atomic fever swept the whole world. |Photo: Yandex. News.

Nuclear power has evolved throughout the 20th century. With the advent of the first reactors and nuclear weapons in the 1940s, people on both sides of the ocean fell under the influence of "atomic romance". In the 1950s, the atom seemed to be the absolute source of energy. Scientists and designers both in the West and in the East hoped that in the future it was the atom that could replace all existing sources of energy: coal, gas, oil and numerous by-products. Therefore, both in the USA and in the USSR, scientists were seized by a fever of stuffing nuclear reactors into everything that requires the presence of a power plant: submarines, ships, icebreakers, planes, tanks, various industrial and agricultural machinery and, of course, cars.

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Nuclear energy seemed to be the solution to all problems. | Photo: ya.ru.
Nuclear energy seemed to be the solution to all problems. | Photo: ya.ru.

But very quickly, scientists on both sides of the Atlantic faced a number of problems. The first is the safety of such power plants for people, or rather their insecurity at the level of technology of the second half of the 20th century. Second: these are the weight and size parameters of power plants. It turned out that it was impossible to simply dig out the reactor from some icebreaker and insert it into a car, simply reducing it in size. There were other problems as well. However, it was the first two that actually put an end to the introduction of a peaceful atom into the civilian industry and the simple daily life of citizens.

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American nuclear car. |Photo: carstyling.ru.
American nuclear car. |Photo: carstyling.ru.

One of the main white myths about the Volga-Atom project boils down to the fact that Soviet designers were able to achieve some special success compared to the Americans. Yes, Soviet scientists led by Alexander Kamnev really took a different path than Ford physicists and engineers. However, in the end they ran into the same problems - the size of the reactor, its efficiency, the degree of heating and safety.

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You can't just take and move the reactor. ¦Photo: Twitter.
You can't just take and move the reactor. ¦Photo: Twitter.

Unfortunately, there is not much reliable information about Volga-atom at all, and what is available often sounds too incredible to take at their word without showing documents or results. The project of the atomic car of the USSR was developed until 1965, after which it was turned off. Ultimately, both the American Ford Nucleon and the Soviet Volga-atom were destined to become nothing more than exhibits for factory museums.

If you want to know even more interesting things, then you should read about
Semipalatinsk: what is happening today at the former nuclear test site of the USSR.
Source:
https://novate.ru/blogs/020422/62596/