Last week’s mysterious nuclear accident in Russia became even more mysterious as the government admitted that a small nuclear reactor had exploded, killing seven people. Evidence is piling up that the incident is somehow related to Russia’s development of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, and President Donald Trump took to Twitter to state that the U.S. has a similar system.
If a nuclear-armed enemy Intercontinental Ballistic Missile were speeding its way through space towards a heavily populated U.S. target, commanders in charge of defending the homeland would at most have a mere 20-to-30 minutes to destroy the incoming weapon. With lives dangling upon a precipice of total devastation, and the earth’s future potentially in jeopardy, U.S. defenders would be tasked with finding, tracking and destroying the attacking nuclear missile.
Red lights start flashing in rapid succession, space-based infrared sensors detect a heat signature, somebody calls the President...and in what may seem like a matter of seconds, the U.S. launches an immediate, massive counterattack. F-35s, B-2 bombers, nuclear-armed Navy submarines, missile-armed destroyers, Ground Based Interceptors and satellites -- are all instantly thrust into action.
As partisan gridlock on a few high-profile issues dominates headlines, it is easy to lose sight of goals members of both parties share. For us, one bipartisan goal is protecting America’s longstanding leadership on nuclear energy. Our bipartisan work comes as American nuclear energy leadership faces stiff headwinds. Nuclear plants are shuttering nationwide due to competition from cheap natural gas.
The Trump administration has given permission to a handful of U.S. companies to engage in early stage nuclear energy trade with Saudi Arabia, igniting a new battle with Congress over plans to sell American-made reactors to the kingdom.
Nuclear is the largest source of clean energy in the USA, and the nation's nuclear plants are working more efficiently than ever, Korsnick said, adding they are "economic engines" for the communities they serve. In addition to new projects, such as the Vogtle units under construction in Georgia, she highlighted the application of developments such as digital technology, 3D printers, big-data analytics, and artificial intelligence to upgrade existing plants for extended operation.
The number of respondents who say they support or oppose the use of nuclear power is split evenly, with both those who approve and those who disapprove coming in at 49 percent, according to Gallup. A slightly lower percentage of Americans, 47 percent, are willing to say that nuclear power plants are "safe" choices for energy.
The U.S. nuclear industry is on life support. Two nuclear reactors currently under construction have been canceled. Westinghouse, once at the vanguard of American technology, filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and is now owned by a Canadian firm. These troubles have affected the human capital—technicians, engineers, and other specialists--crucial for innovation in the industry.
Addressing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on prospects for global energy markets, Birol said the USA had been a leader in nuclear power technology for 60 years alongside France, Japan and Russia, but was set to be overtaken by China unless US policies change. Birol has testified in front of the committee for the last three years.
Most of the reactors operating around the world--including the ones at Fukushima and almost all of the 100 or so plants operating in the U.S.--were built from designs drafted during the slide-rule era and adapted from reactors used on aircraft carriers and submarines.