Incredibly, Chrysler did manage to produce a functional prototype of the TV-8, with one very important caveat — it wasn’t actually nuclear powered. Although the prototype did sport a pair of electric motors — identical to those intended for a nuclear-powered version — the electricity was provided by a conventional V8 engine and generator. Apparently, Chrysler wasn’t ready to fully commit to messing with a nuclear reactor until the Defense Department signed off on the other design aspects of the TV-8.
Chrysler’s decision to keep the atomic aspect of the TV-8 theoretical was a smart one, because the Army did not in fact adopt the design. During testing, it was determined that the wild TV-8 just didn’t offer a significant advantage over more conventional tanks, including those already in service.
The fact that the TV-8 never made it past the gasoline-powered prototype stage poses some interesting questions. With the United States’ victory of World War II and enjoying a robust post-war economy, how well thought out were the Army’s spendy nuclear dalliances? Was consideration given to nuclear fallout affecting the tank’s crew or surrounding area if the TV-8’s reactor was damaged? Would there be a responsibility to recover disabled tanks to avoid potential long-lasting contamination?
We’ll never know how well thought out the nuclear strategy was. In the ensuing decades, interest in nuclear-powered anything started to wane following a couple of high-profile power plant accidents like the Chernobyl disaster, and Three Mile Island in the United States.