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Nuclear Tank

A weather-proof way around Antarctica
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I'm not sure if this is a problem in search of a solution, or more of a solution in search of a problem...but when they had a problem recently with getting a seriously ill person out of the South Pole base during the Antarctic winter, it struck me as odd that we have ways of getting into the far reaches of space, but there were places on our own planet that we couldn't get to anytime we wanted to.

It's probably not cost-effective, but there is one way we could do this: build a large nuclear powered tank-like vehicle, with treads wide and long enough to cover any reasonably-sized crevace that might be found on the flatter parts of the continent. The thing would be a small moving laboratory, maybe 50-100m long, half as wide. It will have enough energy to reach any of the various inland bases, or move to new locations and set up a temporary base for whatever measurements anyone wants to do. It can ferry in supplies, including conventional fuel, to existing bases as needed, and rescue people in an emergency. The problem with planes is that the winter is so cold, the oil freezes up instantly if you stop the motor, and might even freeze while it's running, but the nuclear tank will easily pump out enough heat to keep everything moving.

It'd be no more dangerous than nuclear ships; service it regularly at a shore base and decommission when it gets too old.

scottinmn, Mar 18 2003

RTGs http://www.ans.neep...p96/Earthbased.html
Long lived "batteries" fuelled by radioisotopes. [8th of 7, Oct 06 2004]

Mobile nuclear http://www.brook.ed...ts/nucwcost/anp.htm
Plane carried working reactor, but not for propulsion [lurch, Oct 06 2004]

Maybe a large version of one of these? http://www.icechallenger.com/
How to drive across the Bering Strait. [RayfordSteele, Oct 06 2004]

Topaz reactor http://www.rssi.ru/...General/spacer.html
[bungston, Oct 06 2004]

Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment #1 http://www.atomictourist.com/ebr.htm
Here's pics of the reactor's I was talking about. [GuyWithAPointyStick, Oct 06 2004]

(??) The Big Bus http://us.imdb.com/Title?0074205
Why a tank? Why not a comfortable nuclear-powered bus? [hippo]

TD3's link http://www.roadtrip...wheels/overland.htm
Good stuff! [bungston, Oct 06 2004]

Micro (Home Scale) Nuke http://www.wired.co...12/toshibas-home-n/
Self regulating nuclear reactor scaled for home or neighborhood use. [MisterQED, Oct 14 2014]


       Oversized tracked vehicles exist, using conventional technology, and are used as hotels in the Arctic. Not surprisingly, they don't go fast enough to render emergency rescues practical.   

       There's no special magic to nuclear technology, except that it's cumbersome and politically unacceptable.
DrCurry, Mar 18 2003

       What if it has to go across a stretch of ice that breaks and it plunges into the water?
snarfyguy, Mar 18 2003

       The anti-gravity unit would kick in, duh.
DrCurry, Mar 18 2003

       I would've thought you could send in the nuclear tank rescue sub, but I think anti-gravity is a much easier solution.
Worldgineer, Mar 18 2003

       If we're using nuclear power, why limit it to 50-100m? This thing should be HUGE - several acres at least. On that size, I think balloon tires would be most appropriate. The vehicle would just roll right over rocks or other surface irregularities. The other good thing is that these huge balloon tires (several stories high) would provide buoyancy for the "plunge through the ice" scenario.   

       As regards the slowness problem, perhaps incorporating an extra nuclear power plant would provide that extra UMPH. Or maybe nitroglycerine, like the nitro-burning funny cars.
bungston, Mar 18 2003

       My dad works for the Idaho National Enginering Laboratories where they tried to actually implement a similar idea. The goal was to create a "portable" nuclear reactor that would fit on a plane. It was to be placed on air force 1 so that the president would be able to stay airborne indefinitely during emergencies. Anyway, two prototype reactors were built, which I got to see personally. They were friggin huge! We're talking the size of a 4 or 5 story building. Needless to say, the idea was abandoned since those things would never fly.
GuyWithAPointyStick, Mar 19 2003

       This would be great as it's bound to malfunction on it's first run out and provide even more impetus for baking a rescue force along the lines of Thunderbirds.
oneoffdave, Mar 19 2003

       That nuclear plane sounds like a great idea, especially at the moment, and especially if they forget to install landing gear.
PeterSilly, Mar 19 2003

       The only prototype airframe shook itself to bits on a runway in Nevada during ground testing. I think it used a closed-circuit steam turbine system to drive large props. I don't think the reactor was actually installed in the airframe at that point; it was being powered off ground services.   

       I don't think it would ever have been very practical; the powerplants in nuclear subs (which are the most compact power reactors there are) are still fairly big things .....
8th of 7, Mar 19 2003

       I just read that the nuclear plant in the Pioneer spacecraft (launched 1971) has only now worn out. This plant cannot have been the size of a building - and this was 30 years ago. I could have sworn that the Russians had developed a very small nuclear power plant, about the size of a car, which was being adapted for our space program.
bungston, Mar 19 2003

       [Bungston], that's not a "reactor" - something that produces large amounts of heat in a circulating fluid from a diverged supercritical fuel array. The units that power spacecraft are thermoelectric (seebeck) convertors. They use thea same sort of technology as the nuclear batteries in some pacemaker designs. They use the immense heat released by short-lived isotopes to produce electrical energy. Since in space you have an excellent heatsink (the background temeprature of space is about 6 K, depending on where you are in the solar system) you have a very good span between the hot and cold junctions and therefore good power output.   

       The units are bulky and not particualrly safe, but OK for unmanned kit.
8th of 7, Mar 19 2003

       Space is *not* an excellent heat sink - you have to radiate everything.
DrCurry, Mar 19 2003

       An aircraft was flown with a nuclear reactor on board. <link>
lurch, Mar 19 2003

       The Russians have nuclear-powered icebreakers. Maybe a really big diamond-tipped icebreaker could bash through the rock and stuff too.   

       (And re Dr Curry: space is a good thermal insulator, but in a heat engine the colder the heat sink is, the more efficient the engine is.)
pottedstu, Mar 19 2003

       I know a good heat sink! Polar ice.
Worldgineer, Mar 19 2003

       That mini-nuke is the Topaz (see link). A few of these on board the nuclear tank should keep things cooking. Although to be truthful, I think it is the same sort of thermoelectric converter.
bungston, Mar 19 2003

       I could be wrong, but I don't think there's much danger of running into liquid water once you get a short distance into the Antarctic interior. But I suspect there would still be occasional cracks of various size here and there, which is why you want treads. How large the vehicle, and hence the treads, should be, depends on the minimum size you need to cross the likely terrain safely; in theory we could build something really huge, which would be very cool, but even more outrageously expensive than the minimum size needed.   

       I suspect the thermoelectric nuclear generators wouldn't put out nearly enough heat to move this thing; they're probably more useful when you need a relatively small but steady and extremely long-lasting energy supply. The tank could be refueled every few months or years as needed.   

       Isn't another problem with the nuclear plane idea that a crash would be a massive disaster? Any nuclear reactor has risks, but the risks go up pretty quickly if it's moving hundreds of miles an hour across inhabited terrain.
scottinmn, Mar 22 2003

       Hello, nuclear subs, anyone?
RayfordSteele, Mar 22 2003

       Well there was the proton (I think) project - kind of like an air-core reactor....   

       (in response to [Unabubba]'s "the only way I can see that working is a propellor-driven aircraft.")
my-nep, Mar 23 2004

       Hey, the super-vehicle existed. It wasn't nuclear but diesel electric. LeTonneau - may be mis-spelling this name, a manufacturer of super heavy earh movers made a vehicle for the army c. 1962 with similar purpose in mind. It was intended for arctic & desert combat transport. I did have huge balloon tires and was >500 feet long. See http://www.roadtripamerica.com/wheels/overland.htm to look at it.
TD3, Aug 04 2004

       Nice supervehicle, TD3!
bungston, Aug 04 2004

       Since this vehicle is not armed, nor built for battle, the correct terminology is 'Nuclear APC'.
croissantz, May 01 2006

       /Since this vehicle is not armed, nor built for battle, the correct terminology is 'Nuclear APC'/   

       I propose that it be armed and built for battle. Preferably these things would battle one another, to be fair.
bungston, Feb 02 2009

       The Jawas would have to wear white.
TIB, Feb 03 2009

       It could also be used to test global warming theories following a nuclear disaster at the poles.
pashute, Oct 12 2014

       Sadly nuclear power is banned in Antartica, but if it weren't you could use a micro Nuke (link).
MisterQED, Oct 14 2014

       Sadly nuclear power is banned in Antartica, but if it weren't you could use a micro Nuke (link).
MisterQED, Oct 14 2014

       /banned in antarctic/ I saw go ahead with the antarctic nukes. Who's going to stop you? The Antarctic rangers? Penguin patrol? Sheriff Shoggoth?
bungston, Oct 23 2014

       //It could also be used to test global warming theories following a nuclear disaster at the poles//   

       So, precicely how do you think a nuclear incident at the pole would affect global warming? Methinks your numbers are out by a ten or more orders of magnitude.
Custardguts, Oct 23 2014

       //The Jawas would have to wear white   

       How would you ever find them again? Better to have them in orange, then the Imperial forces use up all them ammunition on them first...
not_morrison_rm, Oct 24 2014


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