Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Atomic Power Plant of the Future (1939)

The October, 1939 issue of Amazing Stories published this painting of the atomic power plant of the future. The image can also be found in the book Out of Time by Norman Brosterman.

If you look closely you can see the streamlined cars and trains of the future driving by. As noted in the book, the first functioning nuclear reactor was built in 1951.

See also:
Solar Energy for Tomorrow's World (1980)
Closer Than We Think! Polar Oil Wells (1960)
Future of Steam (1889)
The Future World of Energy (1984)
1980-1990 Developments (1979)
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)


Wutzke said...

Clearly no concept of how the process of fission is used to generate electricity -- just some Buck Rogers-y cathode looking thing at the bottom of each "fission balloon". And I love the use of inefficient drive belts to convert whatever comes out of the fission balloons into mechanical energy to drive the turbines!

Matt said...

In 1939, I don't think there were many scientists who could speculate what a nuclear power plant would look like, much less artists. But yeah, those belt drives are pretty silly! Are those flywheels they're connected to next to the generator?

It's a good thing that it has a big ATOMIC POWER PLANT sign, otherwise people might mistake it for the town hall or something.

Matthew said...

The "balloons" look as if they were vaguely imagined to be something like a Cockcroft-Walton accelerator or van de Graaff generator--some kind of linear accelerator, in any event, with those cylinders at the bottom providing the atoms to be smashed. Obviously this couldn't bear much relation to the fission piles invented during the war.

As to how the energy gets retrieved, well, you got me.

Neon John said...

Of course nuclear scientists knew what a nuclear power plant would look like in 1939. Fermi got it right the first time a mere 3 years later. The graphite pile at Oak Ridge followed in months and the production pile at Hanford followed in August, 1943. This pile made many megawatts of heat that was wasted to the Columbia river only because the power wasn't needed badly enough to build a steam plant. Everything past the reactor boundary in a nuclear plant is conventional steam plant - nothing novel there.

The first nuclear generated electricity was made at the EBR-1 in Idaho in December, 1951.

The first nuclear generating plant was in Russia. In June 1954, the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant came on line making 5 megawatts of electricity.

In the US, the first COMMERCIAL plant was in 1957, Shippingport but that certainly wasn't the first practical plant.

Calder Hall I at Sellaford, England was the first grid-connected plant (1956) but it was primarily a plutonium production plant so its electrical output was small. But it WAS the first.

It's a shame to see the contents of a SciFi rag as awful as "Amazing Stories" cited as anything related to history. The actual scientific sketches of the time generally showed the reactor plant as being spherical. It was known that fission produces radioactive noble gases and that they'd have to be contained - thus the spherical containment.

Anonymous said...

Should I be having impure thoughts about a nuclear power plant as I am with this one?