Alex Lewyt (PA Archive)

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"Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in ten years," said Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955.

We bet he's glad he caveated that prediction with the word "probably". Lewyt wasn't alone in thinking that we were about to enter an age of safe, small-scale nuclear power in the home. In the same year, Robert Ferry, executive of the US Institute of Boiler and Radiator Manufacturers, said that we'd soon have nuclear reactors in our boilers.

"The system would heat and cool a home, provide unlimited household hot water, and melt the snow from sidewalks and driveways. All that could be done for six years on a single charge of fissionable material costing about $300."

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