Some reaction to Greg Pollowitz’s post yesterday suggesting that we site nuclear reactors on military bases:
As one who spent many days literally within 20 to 30 feet of the core of an operating nuclear reactor (in the Radio Room of a nuclear fast-attack submarine), I can attest that the U.S. Navy has the most competent nuclear operators in the world. We had to constantly wear radiation monitoring film badges, and I received more radiation being outside the submarine than inside. Your suggestion that the Navy operate land-based reactors is extraordinarily practical. So we will probably never see it.
Another offers a nuclear-energy alternative:
To expand on your mention of placing naval reactors on military bases, I have another novel solution to both generation and pollution. Every coal-fired plant in the U.S. has a railroad siding (to bring in the coal). The current version of the nuclear submarine reactor, the S9G (used on Virginia-class submarines) purportedly makes 500 MW. Build them on railroad cars (they are small enough to fit on a submarine). Build a containment building at a coal-fired plant, roll in the reactor and connect the secondary loop to the generators already there, and shut down the coal boilers.
The Navy has 5,400 reactor years of experience without an accident: standard design (like the Canadians and the French), rigorous training, and standards — it can be done!
Build a fuel reprocessing plant at Yucca Mountain to reduce the physical volume of material the needs to be sequestered. Things aren’t going too well with the “gaming” industry in Nevada these days. Even the legal brothels are in a pinch. The prospect of a $3 billion investment and 7,000 jobs might be attractive even to Luddites like Harry Reid.
[UPDATE] And a few caveats:
This is a genuinely interesting idea, but I’d offer a few potential spikes. First, while I very much like the idea of a civilian nuclear facility being run to Navy standards, I am reminded of the quality-control process a nuclear submarine goes through. I would expect the increase in reliability and safety would come with an increase in the cost (the cost may be worth it).
Second: How does “Join the Navy, see the world” square with being “deployed” to a domestic Nuclear power generation plant? I’d also be concerned that deployment to such a plant would reduce opportunities for promotion.
Lastly, how do you handle the revenue stream all this power generation generates? I would argue there are extremely good reasons for denying access to a self-funding mechanism for any branch of the armed forces.
Ultimately I would much prefer a civilian nuclear infrastructure as a natural destination for competent crewmen who are leaving the Navy, rather than folding power generation into the Navy’s mission.