From Defense News:
The prospect of the U.S. Navy once again using nuclear energy to propel its larger surface warships edged a bit closer to reality May 3 with a push from a powerful congressional subcommittee.Interesting.
“We are requiring that new classes of major surface combatants are designed and constructed with integrated nuclear power systems,” Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee, said during the panel’s markup of the 2008 defense authorization bill.
Taylor’s predecessor as chairman, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., echoed the call.
“Nuclear propulsion is simply the right thing to do,” said Bartlett, now the panel’s ranking minority member.
Both lawmakers have strongly supported nuclear power as a means to reduce the military’s dependence on oil for fuel. At their request, the Navy produced a study on the viability of re-introducing nuclear power into surface ships — a capability the service stopped buying in the mid-1970s.
Most observers expected the Navy study to repeat the assertions made since those years — that the dramatically higher cost of buying nuclear-propelled surface ships outweighed tactical advantages.
But appearing before the committee March 1, Delores Etter, the Navy’s top acquisition official, surprised onlookers with her testimony that the high cost of oil is making the nuclear option more economically viable — at least for some ships.