I served as a requirements officer in the branch of the OPNAV (Chief of Naval Operations) staff - N4 - that deals with energy and fuel issues. I would be much more impressed by the DoD programs to mitigate climate change if the leadership would have opened their eyes to see that the US Navy already contained one of the world's formost nuclear energy organizations and owned technology that has been proven to provide battle capable power without producing any emissions at all.
As we learned when the USS Nautilus first went to sea in January 1955, nuclear fission energy is both clean enough to run inside a sealed submarine and powerful enough to drive that submarine at unmatched speeds. The first Nautilus core propelled the ship more than 62,000 miles; the most recent cores being installed in Virginia class submarines will last the life of the ship - perhaps 1,000,000 miles.
The reception I got when pushing an expanded nuclear energy program was discouragement from the politically appointed leaders in uniform. I kept showing them the numbers; they kept saying that nuclear was not popular. During the huge run up in oil prices prior to 2008, my efforts started to gain some traction, but short memories took over once the prices fell during the recession.
Many of the budget types informed me that it was always easier to get Congress to approve a supplemental budget request if fuel prices skyrocketed than to get them to approve ships that cost 20-30% more. They said that future fuel costs disappear in their spreadsheets - I kept pointing out the dishonesty and the lack of historical understanding.
Eventually I retired without having made as much of an impact as I desired, but the truth remains that nuclear energy works. It is zero emission and it provides reliable power on demand. It is the right choice for an organization that already knows how to build some of the best power plants in the world.
I've provided this response because I am quite aware of the fact that the NRDC discourages the use of nuclear energy. I recently had a lengthy conversation with Tom Cochran, who has now retired from your organization; he was insistent that, somehow, the US Navy's nuclear propulsion program contributed to the risk of nuclear proliferation. That makes no sense at all considering the measures taken to provide security to all military systems.
One more thing - the cost of military nuclear power plants is higher than it should be, but that is mostly due to the very low production rate environment of today. The recent cost reduction program for the USS Virginia demonstrates how production rates can make a big impact on system costs.
Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights
CDR, USN (ret)