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Academic's nuclear speculation sparks media frenzy

A UK academic has won worldwide internet fame for proposing nuclear-powered aircraft carrying fission reactors.

But Cranfield University engineering professor Ian Poll insists that his 27 October Royal Aeronautical Society lecture was about alternative fuels, particularly hydrogen, and that a reference to nuclear power that became the subject of a Times report was merely an offhand comment. "I haven't given [the nuclear power type] much thought. You could use a nuclear source to heat up the incoming air instead of burning fuel," he told Flight International. The US military experimented with nuclear technology for aircraft in the 1950s, but abandoned the work in the early 1960s.

Poll is also head of technology for the UK government-funded sustainable aviation Omega organisation, and Cranfield University was involved in a European Union hydrogen powered aircraft study called Cryoplane.

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