Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Truth Has Slipped Out: What Else is Really Behind "Expanding the Nuclear Navy"?

On October 12, 2000, the USS Cole set in to Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. A terrorist action caused an explosion ripping a 35-by-36-foot gash in the ship's galley, where crew were lining up for lunch. Seventeen sailors were killed and thirty-nine injured. Flooding also damaged engineering spaces. Some would say the fuel stop might not have been made at all if this been a nuclear powered ship. Vessels of the US Navy are present, however, because Yemen is a strategic choke-point (Bab el Mandeb) that the Navy protects.

Suppose though, the USS Cole had been a nuclear powered (propulsion) ship. Damage would have been at least as deadly, more environmentally contaminating, and costly. More than Navy preparedness is behind Congress's latest move. Maintaining the viability of our national economy has always been of strategic importance:

November 5, 2007 - Congress is debating whether future naval ships should include nuclear propulsion. ... Adding a nuclear cruiser every two years to the workload would reduce the price of other nuclear ship power plants by about 7 percent. This equates to savings of approximately $115 million for each aircraft carrier and $35 million for each submarine. source
One of the major, upfront costs is recruiting, Naval Nuclear Power Schooling, retaining and deploying technically adept crews. Corporate nuclear power plant operators have relied upon ex-Navy trained employees for decades. If a shortage of these specialist was on the horizon just as the U.S. considers ramping up nuclear plant construction, congressional National Defense initiatives might require DoD action:
April 26, 2007 - Workers in short supply for U.S. nuclear power - 'Where are we going to get the educated and skilled workers to safely run the current fleet (of reactors) over extended lifetimes and the potential nuclear plants of the future?' asked Dale Klein, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 'Where are they being educated? Where are they being trained?' ... nuclear engineers and technicians who landed their jobs in the 1970s are retiring and there are few trained to take their places. ... 'We've realized the value of going after trained military workers,' said Mike Pasono, head of recruiting for Nuclear Management Company. He seeks officers and those who served on nuclear submarines.
The transition to more civilian nuclear power plants will be smoother if the Navy provides more nuclear technicians who are experienced. While the cost is at taxpayer expense, utility rate payers, will be spared. That seems sound to me, since utilities have been very highly regulated entities since the nuclear debacle at Three Mile Island. In addition to a stronger defense there are definite economies of scale: nuclear propulsion for existing submarines and aircraft carriers saves 11 million barrels of oil annually. Building two Virginia-class submarines annually saves $200 million per submarine. source
What bothers me is politicians have become too lazy or PC to level with the voting public any more. Remember to vote. Voting on a submarine was always silent and strange.
11-8-07; 11:45 corrected typos



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