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How about a Nuclear Zeppelin ?

WIRED magazine has a post up about reviving the idea of nuclear powered jetliners:

Bring Back the Nuclear-Powered Plane!

“We need to be looking for a solution to aviation emissions which will allow flying to continue in perpetuity with zero impact on the environment,” Professor Poll tells the paper. “We need a design which is not kerosene-powered, and I think nuclear-powered aeroplanes are the answer beyond 2050. The idea was proved 50 years ago, but I accept it would take about 30 years to persuade the public of the need to fly on them.”

A better ( and safer) idea than putting a nuclear reactor on an airplane  would be a nuclear-powered super zeppelin. The crash risk would be minimal and  such a super-zeppelin would have vast advantages in lift over an airplane and be able to ship large quantities of goods virtually anywhere on earth.  Or it could hover semi-permanetly as a SIGINT platform with capabilities of being an “aircraft carrier in the sky” for UAV’s.

Inventive, aeronautical and physics types feel free to sound off in the comments.

12 Responses to “How about a Nuclear Zeppelin ?”

  1. deichmans Says:

    Actually, this has been talked about for quite some time in the "futures" circles of the national security community.  Dr. Dennis Bushnell (Chief Scientist at NASA-Langley) has a lengthy briefing that includes Zeppelin-delivered materiel.  And many of the Fort Myer Cabal (the group of defense insiders who congregate at the Fort Myer O-Club each Wednesday evening, and whose alumni include the distinguished likes of Tom Christie and Chuck Spinney) have seen "aerostats" as essential elements for future C2, surveillance and battle management capabilities.

    Biggest issue to any logistics-support Zeppelin would be speed — or lack thereof.  Second (in nuclear variant) is coolant; nuclear-powered ships have the benefit of floating on a literal sea of coolant, while a nuke-driven Zeppelin would have to sacrifice speed and lift for carrying its own.

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    "’aerostats’ as essential elements for future C2, surveillance and battle management capabilities."
    If we ever got into any serious war, a "stand up fight" bigger than the "bug hunts" our military does these days, we may very well find our satellites destroyed, and all of the previously usable orbital space full of debris, thus bringing the satellite age to an end. 
    This would have catastrophic economic consequences, of course, but right off the bat it would have potentially even more serious military ones. 
    Having a fallback capability would be smart. 
    "Biggest issue to any logistics-support Zeppelin would be speed …"
    How do they compare to ships in the tradeoff speed/tonnage moved?  Seems like they be a little faster but carry a lot less freight.

  3. Jason Says:

    So what happens when Joe the Somali takes his RPG-7 or a Strela, goes to the roof of his building, and pops it off at the slow-moving nuclear-powered Zeppelin?

    Make the Hindenberg look like a matchstick, perhaps.

  4. zen Says:

    Thank you Shane! Did not know any of that.
    Lex – Agreed.
    Jason – The Hindenburg was filled with hydogen gas, not helium. Nor does it have to be just one gasbag in the skin. As for flying in low over Mogadishu – why, I’m not sure – I’d suggest staying out of rocket range. How’s an RPG going to hit a Zeppelin flying at even 5,000 ft ?

  5. Lexington Green Says:

    We do not fly our C-130s where people can get at them with RPGs.  We would not fly our zeppelins there either.  Non-issue.  Aircraft made for flying into already secured locations are a category of their own. 

  6. Jay@Soob Says:

    Lends one to imagine Somali hot air balloon pirates.

    In the event of a "big boy war" our reliance on rather slow moving zeppelins might be an issue. The two-dimensional, geologically complicated aspect of maritime shipping seems more manageable.

    Beyond that a zeppelin flying at over 25,000 ft could rely as much on solar power as hydrocarbon power. What they lack in speed could be made up in volume (like maritime shipping vs airplane.)
    Fascinating bit of thought.

  7. Dan McIntosh Says:

    Just in case, we’d have to armor the reactor compartment to avoid accidental leakage if (and when) one comes down.  It would be, so to speak, a Lead Zeppelin.

  8. purpleslog Says:

    As a a science fiction reader since 3rd grade (my grade school library had the Heinlein juveniles), I look forward to any future involving Airship!

  9. Ski Says:

    Bill Lind would have a wet dream if zepplins were reintroduced to the battlefield.

  10. YT Says:

    Aw great! Red Alert 3! Long live Yuri!

  11. wolmeleavoila Says:

    All bread is not baked in one oven 🙂

  12. Lorceillect Says:

    A guy has a talking dog. He brings it to a talent scount. “This dog can speak English,” he claims to the unimpressed agent. “Okay, Sport,” the guys says to the dog, “what’s on the top of a house?” “Roof!” the dog replies. “Oh, come on…” the talent agent responds. “All dogs go ‘roof’.” “No, wait,” the guy says. He asks the dog “what does sandpaper feel like?” “Rough!” the dog answers. The talent agent gives a condescending blank stare. He is losing his patience. “No, hang on,” the guy says. “This one will amaze you. ” He turns and asks the dog: “Who, in your opinion, was the greatest baseball player of all time?” “Ruth!” goes the dog. And the talent scount, having seen enough, boots them out of his office onto the street. And the dog turns to the guy and says “Maybe I shoulda said DiMaggio?” 😛

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