by Will Davis
Our ANS Nuclear Cafe Friday Matinee feature this week is a film produced to detail the United States Army’s nuclear power program; it was archived and then put online by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore.
Particularly in the decade of the 1950’s there was an enormous rush in all quarters of the varied branches of the military forces of the United States to determine whether or not nuclear energy could be put to any practical use.  Sometimes, there were projects that just didn’t make sense; usually these were cancelled early.  However, quite a number reached hardware stages even without any real guarantee of operational deployment; the Air Force’s nuclear powered bomber concept comes to mind as one of those projects not really likely to be deployed but for which much was spent and some hardware built before cancellation.  (This includes a 3 MWt air cooled reactor carried aloft in the converted NB-36 bomber, as well as GE aircraft power plants now displayed at INL by EBR-I.)
The Army had unique ops problems, some of which nuclear power theoretically could solve.  Operationally it was felt that nuclear power could and should displace power generation in many areas, particularly in a potential land war scenario where generation would be set up as the Army advanced; this would free up diesel fuel (being used in stationary generator sets) for use in forward deployed vehicles such as combat tanks and ease logistics.  Aside from potential mobile combat operations the Army was tasked with operating a wide variety of fixed or semi-fixed outposts worldwide such as remote radar stations near the arctic – a deployment that nuclear could certainly solve if built in the proper way.
Because of these needs for mobility and/or deployment to distant locations it became, more or less, the hallmark

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