Tanner: 350 US Navy ships powered by nuclear energy
Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009 9:47 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
Congressman John Tanner uses the U.S. Navy as an example of how nuclear energy can help wean America from dependence on foreign oil.
“Nuclear energy is our most viable source of alternative energy to our over-dependence on foreign oil that we have,” said the Union City native and Navy veteran in a recent interview.
“It is clean and it is renewable. The only problem with it is what to do with the waste. If we can get that worked out with the Yucca, Nev., situation, I think the U.S. Navy has proved the worth of nuclear energy.” Yucca Mountain is the proposed site for a nuclear waste repository.
Recently, Tanner and an eight-member House delegation were in Europe to participate in ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of North American Treaty Organization, a mutual defense league comprised of 28 nations.
Tanner is president of the NATO parliamentary assembly, the civilian branch of NATO.
A chance encounter with Cmdr. Mike Stevens, commanding officer of the USS New Hampshire, a nuclear powered submarine, revealed how nuclear energy can some day lead to Independence Day of another kind for the nation. The submarine was commissioned Oct. 25, 2008, at Portsmouth (Va.) Naval yard.
“We were in Norway during Memorial Day,” Tanner said. “We participated in a ceremony at Oslo, where we toured the USS Porter, a nuclear-powered frigate. Then we went to Bergen to tour the USS New Hampshire. The skipper (Commander Stevens) found out that I had been in the Navy. We got to talking.”
As it turns out, the conversation was memorable.
“He told me, ‘Unlike when you were in the Navy, this submarine — They call them ‘boats’ in the Navy — will operate 33 years without a pint of oil or a gallon of gas in it,” Tanner said. “That’s pretty impressive in terms of getting away from our dependence on foreign oil.”
And that’s not all, he added.
“All our new ships, except the very small ones, are nuclear powered.”
Isn’t that something the general public doesn’t know?
“Well, it’s not secret. It’s been going on since the days of (the late) Admiral Hyman Rickover, who was the ‘father’ of the nuclear program in the Navy. He served longer on active duty than any other admiral.”
Rickover, who died July 8, 1986, at age 86, became the longest-serving active duty military officer in U.S. history with 63 years of continuous service, according to a Web site. As ‘father’ of the nuclear Navy, he directed the production of 200 nuclear-powered submarines and 23 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
For three decades he exercised tight control over the ships, technology and personnel of the nuclear Navy, interviewing and approving or denying every prospective officer being considered for a nuclear ship, the Web site states.
“The Navy runs about 350 nuclear plants every day,” Tanner said. “Every new ship and submarine that we put on the line is nuclear powered.”
Located about 80 miles north of Las Vegas, Yucca Mountain has been the proposed site for a nuclear waste repository since 1987. Nuclear waste, also called radioactive waste, takes thousands of years, if not hundreds of thousands, to decay and become safe.
Yucca Mountain is 6,588 feet high. Its last eruption is estimated to have occurred 80,000 years ago.
Experts assert the mountain’s special characteristics — alternating layers of ignimbrite, or “tuff” — make it suitable to entomb radioactive waste for the required time period.
Opponents fear an earthquake in the area could fracture the layers of tuff and unleash radioactive material that would contaminate drinking water. They also fear that resumption of testing of nuclear weapons in the desert area would have an adverse effect.
The U.S. Department of Energy contends otherwise. In 2002, DOE formally recommended the mountain as a suitable dump for nuclear waste. The George W. Bush administration endorsed DOE, although the State of Nevada and some environmental groups opposed it. In July 2002, Congress passed legislation upholding DOE, paving the way for DOE to apply to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a construction and operating license for the proposed nuclear waste dump.
In July 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that federal regulations about Yucca Mountain radiation release regulations were inadequate, and (quoting a Web site), “public health protections extending out 10,000 years post-burial are insufficient.” The court said such regulations must extend “hundreds of thousands of years into the future.
“This could mark the beginning of the end for the Yucca dump proposal, as the site cannot meet such standards,” the Web site states, warning there is a move in Congress to override the federal court decision.
Published in The Messenger 7.9.09