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Is America Planning Nuclear Drones?

Is America Planning Nuclear Drones?

A new generation of American nuclear-powered drones is being researched, according to a report by the government’s principal nuclear research and development agency. These drones would possibly be able to fly over remote regions of the world for months on end without refuelling.

The project summary by Sandia National Laboratories, obtained by The Guardian, says nuclear power would solve several drone problems: insufficient “hang time” over a potential target, lack of power for running sophisticated surveillance and weapons systems and lack of communications capacity.

The work has been temporarily halted because of concerns about public opinion over the potential dangers, such as a crash turning the drone into a dirty bomb or of its nuclear propulsion system falling into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly powers — as happened last year when Iran captured a drone.

The Guardian quotes Chris Coles of the campaigning website Drone Wars UK describing the potential of nuclear powered drones as a “pretty terrifying prospect.”

“Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot. There is a major push by this industry to increase the use of drones and both the public and government are struggling to keep up with the implications,” he said.

The use of drones has been dramatically ramped up by the Obama administration. Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tells The Diplomat:

“They (politicians) have helped create a context where nations engage in what we used to think of as war, but without some of the same kind of tough and public deliberations about them. For example, we have carried out more than 300 air strikes into Pakistan, but Congress hasn’t voted on it, the media doesn’t report it the same way, and the public certainly doesn’t view it the same way as if those were manned operations.”

Related stories:

ACLU Sues Administration for Targeted Killings

Technology and the Future of Warfare

Republicans Fight Obama’s Planned Nuclear Cuts

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Predator drone picture by Wikipedia

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3:56PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Good old American ingenuity---if you dare to shoot one down, then you wind up with a potential "dirty bomb" on your hands. If only we would apply the funding and technology to reverse our country's slide into Third World status instead.

3:41PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Gene J., the article i about nuclear power, not nuclear weapons.
That said, it's not really a good idea. It wouldn't be a reactor, but rather, a battery, which are already produced privately as power sources for remote foreign locations. Even so, anyone that can transmit a strong GPS signal can bring one of these things down. With a bullet, you need to see it. With a GPS signal, you'll find it sooner or later after it crashes.

12:18PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012


10:46AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Now all we need is to find some more enemies to spy on and bomb

10:10AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

It is far more likely that nations and other terrorist organizations will use drones as nuclear weapon delivery systems long before they actually power the drones with nuclear energy. However, some form of low-level radioactive battery may the quickest way to power a drone with "nuclear" energy.

9:37AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

not surprised

9:28AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012


8:51AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Nuclear powered drone crashes and spreads the radiation from the nuclear engine. OOPs.

7:37AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

What a FARCE. They'll do anything to put the scare of the devil into the people of the world, including us.

7:26AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Just a matter of time. Stupid people do stupid things and we are all stupid.

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