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Even for ground launches, it's not a totally crazy idea.
Consider, there have been something like 2,000 nuclear devices detonated on, near, or under the planet since 1945, and the world has barely even noticed. Compounding this is the 'insane' efficiency and thrust of the Orion. Where rockets are incredibly weight-conscious, requiring massive systems to put a few tons into orbit in one go, Orion just laughs at such restrictions and offers the chance to send up small cities.
The environmental impact would be real (particularly the first few detonations at and near the surface), but the capabilities are so far beyond what you can get by burning rocket fuel (which is pretty toxic itself), that you wouldn't need more than a couple pulse-drive launches every year to deliver more LEO payload capacity than all the rockets in the world ever did, combined.
With that sort of access to space, sci-fi concepts like microwave solar transmitters, asteroid mining, and major space-based industry actually become possible.
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