S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Helicarrier Would Need 200 Nuclear Plants to Power It

In order to power the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, the clandestine government organization would need to generate electricity equivalent to that of roughly 200 state-of-the-art nuclear power plants, according to I, Science, the "science magazine of Imperial College." The piece, which stipulates that the writer enjoyed Marvel's The Avengers and isn't looking to rain on anyone's parade, goes on to estimate the size and weight of the Helicarrier, and from there the amount of power that would be needed to keep it operational and make it actually fly. What they came up with makes it seem pretty unlikely that S.H.I.E.L.D. could get their iconic headquarters out of the water:

Warning: I am using some pretty heavy-handed estimations and simplifications, because unfortunately the Helicarrier does not exist and neither Marvel nor Walt Disney was kind enough to provide us with any dimensions for this beast. First things first, we need to establish the weight of the Helicarrier. I compared a screenshot of the Helicarrier to aircraft carriers of various nations to see if I could estimate the weight of The Avengers' kick-ass mode of transportation. I concluded that the Helicarrier's runway is nearly equivalent to that of the USS Nimitz. Therefore, the Helicarrier would weigh about 100,000 tons (or 9.1 x 107 kg). It would also be about 77m wide and 333m long. I also needed to figure out the weight of those turbofans used to lift the Helicarrier from the ocean. This gets a little shakier estimation-wise, because there simply isn't a device about the size of a Helicarrier that has turbofans that I can compare it to. Instead, I compared it to Rolls Royce Trent turbofan engines, which are found on many commercial planes. After some mathematical manipulation and taking into account that there are four turbofans on the Helicarrier, I would say that the Helicarrier is roughly 108 kg total. That means this craft would have to have on board a power source powerful enough to lift the 108 kg Helicarrier off the ocean as well as the energy to fly it for extended periods of time!

The magazine went on to calculate exactly how much power it would take to do that, concluding that it was practically impossible using existing technology due to the amount of electricity that would need to be generated. And even if they could find the space for 200 nuclear plants aboard the Helicarrier, let's keep in mind that this is a mode of transportation that constantly finds itself under assault from heavily armed supervillains, demigods and terrorists. What are the odds of a core breach in a situation like that? Of course, the operative phrase there is "existing technology" (which, admittedly, we put in I, Science's mouth). In the world of The Avengers, Tony Stark's arc reactor technology could theoretically have been appropriated or approximated to power the Helicarrier, especially since it doesn't appear in the films until after Iron Man is well established.