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Nuclear-fuelled cars in our future?

In a not too far away future we might find ourselves driving nuclear fuelled cars.

American car maker Cadillac is working on a concept car powered by an onboard nuclear reactor that uses thorium as its fuel.

World Thorium Fueled Concept car, that’s the name of the project, debuted at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show. Though still a concept only, researchers at Cadillac claim the technology is within our reach.

Charles Stevens, a researcher at the Massachusetts R&D firm Laser Power Systems, is creating a prototype of a thorium-powered laser that can be used to generate enough energy to power a vehicle while producing zero-emissions, according to an article in the Txchnologist. The system can produce a total of 250 kilowatts (equivalent 335 horsepower), weighs about 500 pounds, and can fit under the hood of a car.

Thorium has been touted by several nuclear scientists as a better nuclear fuel source than uranium. Less radioactive and more plentiful than uranium, thorium is being tested by researchers in China as a potential fuel for nuclear reactors.

While small-scale thorium-powered nuclear reactors are theoretically possible, none have been designed that could fit in a car. Stevens’ system uses a thorium-powered laser to turn water to steam, which could be used in a car.

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