US Navy’s Survival – When US Nuclear Industry Dies

US Navy’s Survival – When US Nuclear Industry Dies

The nuclear power industry in the United States is dying.

If not in the near term because of rigged bidding by RTO/ISOs, then because of expiring operating licenses. (All existing nuclear power plants must close when their operating licenses expire. The first will be shut down in the 2030s, about 15 years from now, and every other existing nuclear power plant will be shut down before the end of this century.) 

Barring a miracle, the anti-nuclear activists have won the war against nuclear power.

While this is a tragedy harming all Americans, we must be realistic and face the facts.

But what will happen to our nuclear Navy?

Can it survive while the nuclear utility industry collapses?

A recent USNI article reported: 

The Navy’s ability to maintain and manufacture aircraft carrier and submarine propulsion systems is at risk.”

US Navy aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78

The US Navy has 101 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. More are planned.

But where will the expertise, new reactors, and equipment come from? And who will supply the spares and fuel for refueling?

There are around 18 universities and colleges offering a BS degree in nuclear engineering. Of the107,000 BS engineering degrees issued in 2015, only around 500 were in nuclear engineering.

Who will spend $30 to $50 thousand dollars each year for four years to get a BS degree in nuclear engineering if there are no jobs available?

The USNI article mentioned the Navy only has one contractor making reactor plant heavy-components and only a handful of companies that make flow control, valves, and pumps.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are aggressively expanding their nuclear programs, including building nuclear reactors in other countries.

Last year, Russia had orders for or was in the process of constructing 33 new nuclear power plants around the world, plus 4 within Russia. Russia is also developing and building fast breeder reactors. 

China is rapidly becoming the second most important user and builder of nuclear power plants. It has a copycat version of the Westinghouse AP1000 designated the CAP 1400, with ambitious plans to build these units in China and also export them.

China currently has 44 nuclear power plants in operation and another 13 under construction. It has plans to have around 150 nuclear reactors in operation by 2050.

Against this backdrop, the United States nuclear industry is withering on the vine, which endangers the Navy’s ability to build and maintain its fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines.

. . .

 

Note about “competitive markets”:

The media refers to the bidding in the RTO/ISO controlled areas as “competitive markets”, which is a misnomer because the bidding is rigged in favor of wind and solar, and even for natural gas.

The so-called “competitive market”, managed by RTO/ISOs, covers two-thirds of the United States, while the other third is covered by regulated markets.

It’s in the rigged, so-called “competitive markets” that nuclear power is coming under attack.

. . .

2 Replies to “US Navy’s Survival – When US Nuclear Industry Dies”

  1. Donn, I enrolled in two Nuclear Engineering classes at Kings Point (USMMA) who operated the shipboard training facility for the NS Savannah. Back then (1967) nuclear was the future propulsion system. After Viet Nam the merchant marine withered and no additional merchant ships were powered by nuclear. One would think the Greens would promote nuclear for electricity generation because it produces the least amount of CO2 per kilowatt, But no, the anti-nuclear attacks have been largely successful. I understand that the Trump Administration is looking into nuclear as a possible power source for power grid base loading.

    One can only hope.

  2. Nuclear opponents have, as usual, played the long game, heeding the advice of Sun Tzu (“If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”). Choking off construction of new plants by inflating the costs assured that when the existing plants eventually died there would be none left to take their place. It might take awhile, but eventually they would achieve their goal.

    They have also assured the long-term victory because we will soon be in a position where even if we wanted to build a nuclear plant, there will be none among us who will know how, and will not have the infrastructure to do it (e.g., pressure vessel fabrication). Enrollments at many of the remaining nuclear engineering programs at our universities are way down. Today’s engineering students are not stupid. They will know better than to cast their life with a discipline that has no future other than decommissioning and waste disposal.

    Meanwhile, countries like China and India have chosen a different path. They will emerge as islands of nuclear energy in an ever-growing sea of more primitive energy sources, and struggling for life in that sea will be formerly great countries like the US, and that will be the real tragedy. We held the future in our hands and threw it away for a handful of empty promises and plain old lies.

    What to do? Is there still time to save ourselves? We are at the tipping point. The technology will not survive simply depending on the needs of the military. Small reactor systems, while worth pursuing, will not be spared the attacks and falsehoods that the nuclear opponents have used to beat down the LWR technology of today. It is my opinion that we have to circle the wagons around out existing infrastructure, which has many decades of life still left, time that will allow us at least a chance to turn the tide. Preserving our LWR plants of today, which have now centuries of reactor-years of operation on the books with not a single casualty among the general public, is the hill we now fight for and is worth dying on. I know there are those on our side who would argue that large-scale LWR technology is not worth the fight. But to abandon the ramparts that have been built with hundreds of millions of person-hours of labor and untold billions in treasure will open the gates to an enemy whose stated purpose is nothing less than eradication of all we have built.

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