There were three real issues with this project: shielding weight, landing weight and politics.
1. Shot down or crashing, one of these aircraft would be a "dirty bomb" and could generate a nuclear contamination disaster. This alone made the project risky. Remeber, during the heyday of strategic nuclear bombing shootdowns were expected & ariplane to target assignments were made on the basis of the expected (and dismal) survival rate of inbound bombers. Also a single crash on US soil would have been... politically unpopular.
2. The lead, graphite and cement used to shield static nuclear facilities doesn't exactly work when trying to build an airplane, which made crew shielding dubious and reduced the loiter time of such a vehicle to the radiation tolerance of the crew.
3. A mich more minor issue was that of building landing gear that could hold the weight of the reactor on landing let alone a crash.
All that asside, a flying nuke plant is a great idea and I for one would not be surprised to see this idea resurrected for extreme loiter duration robotic aircraft :/
Maybe yes with a drone based on TTL or some other "old" standard. Probably no with CMOS... Well, with a nuclear plant on board, I guess one can generate enough energy for a TTL computer.
Fiber optic cables aren't immune to this either :
"This is Mr. So-and-so from the Such-and-such Aircraft Company." It was one of the big airplane companies in California, but unfortunately I can't remember which one. The guy continues: "We're planning to start a laboratory on nuclear-propelled rocket airplanes. It will have an annual budget of so-and-so many million dollars . . ." Big numbers.
I said, "Just a moment, sir; I don't know why you're telling me all this."
"Just let me speak to you," he says; "just let me explain everything. Please let me do it my way." So he goes on a little more, and says how many people are going to be in the laboratory, so-and-so-many people at this level, and so -and-somany Ph.D's at that level . . .
"Excuse me, sir," I say, "but I think you have the wrong fella."
"Am I talking to Richard Feynman, Richard P. Feynman?"
"Would you please let me present what I have to say, sir, and then we'll discuss it."
"All right!" I sit down and sort of close my eyes to listen to all this stuff, all these details about this big project, and I still haven't the slightest idea why he's giving me all this information,
Finally, when he's all finished, he says, "I'm telling you about our plans because we want to know if you would like to be the director of the
"Have you really got the right fella?" I say. "I'm a professor of theoretical physics. I'm not a rocket engineer, or an airplane engineer, or anything
"We're sure we have the right fellow."
"Where did you get my name then? Why did you decide to call me?"
"Sir, your name is on the patent for nuclear-powered, rocket-propelled airplanes."
"Oh," I said, and I realized why my name was on the patent, and I'll have to tell you the story. I told the man, "I'm sorry, but I would like to continue as a professor at Cornell University."
What had happened was, during the war, at Los Alamos, there was a very nice fella in charge of the patent office for the government, named Captain Smith. Smith sent around a notice to everybody that said something like, "We in the patent office would like to patent every idea you have for the United States government, for which you are working now. Any idea you have on nuclear energy or its application that you may think everybody knows about, everybody doesn't know about: Just come to my office and tell me the idea."
I see Smith at lunch, and as we're walking back to the technical area, I say to him, "That note you sent around: That's kind of crazy to have us come in and tell you every idea."
We discussed it back and forth--by this time we're in his office-and I say, "There are so many ideas about nuclear energy that are so perfectly obvious, that I'd be here all day telling you stuff."
"Nothin' to it!" I say. "Example: nuclear reactor . . . under water. . water goes in . . . steam goes out the other side ... Pshshshsht--it's a submarine. Or: nuclear reactor ... air comes rushing in the front... heated up by nuclear reaction ... out the back it goes ... Boom! Through the air-
-it's an airplane. Or: nuclear reactor ... you have hydrogen go through the thing ... Zoom!--it's a rocket. Or: nuclear reactor ... only instead of using ordinary uranium, you use enriched uranium with beryllium oxide at high temperature to make it more efficient ... It's an electrical power plant.
There's a million ideas!" I said, as I went out the door.
About three months later, Smith calls me in the office and says, "Feynman, the submarine has already been taken. But the other three are yours."
So when the guys at the airplane company in California are planning their laboratory, and try to find out who's an expert in rocket-propelled whatnots, there's nothing to it: They look at who's got the patent on it!
This entire book is an amazing read that I recommend to anyone. You can usually find it for less than $5 at a used bookstore.
Airplanes need to be light. Tons and tons of lead shielding is a harder proposition there, especially where every pound of shielding is one fewer pound of bombs you can carry.
The noise on a modern airplane is due mostly to the 500MPH airflow outside, not the engines. (Edit: a turbofan engine powered by nuclear-heated air would also likely be about as noisy as one powered by burning fuel)
Where are you pulling this from? Every interview I've seen with people who have been on planes where the engines had quit talked about how quiet it got.
"The second accident was a cooling system leak which occurred in 1967, shortly after refueling. Finding the leak required breaking through the concrete and metal biological shield with sledgehammers. Once the leak was found, it became apparent that the sledgehammer damage could not be repaired; subsequently, all three reactors were removed, and replaced by two OK-900 reactors."
Poor bastards had to break into a nuclear reactor with sledgehammers.