Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nuclear Pyramid

If someone asked me to complete a cruise on a Soviet-built nuclear submarine, I would reply that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet together do not half the amount of money it would take for me to run that risk.  Not only are catastrophic accidents all too common in the former Soviet submarine fleet, radiation leaks are so common and so severe that the hazardous pay premium that soviet sailors on those vessels receive is properly referred to “childlessness pay.” On the other hand, I had absolutely no problem at all spending two months on board a nuclear powered U.S. Navy vessel.  I taught History and English on board the USS George Washington CVN-73 from July to September, of 1994.  Similarly, I would have no safety concerns whatsoever about riding on an American nuclear sub.  I once asked my brother Bruce if his opposition to nuclear power extended to the nuclear Navy.  When he said, “yes,” I politely asked him if he’d given any thought to the cost of replacing ten Nimitz-class carriers (which go for several billion dollars apiece). He had no response.  The U.S. Navy has commissioned about 190 nuclear submarines and we haven’t lost one since the Scorpion in 1968.  I’d say, “You’re in a whole lot more danger driving on any American highway than you are on a Rickover-designed submarine.” The total number of accident-free reactor years the U.S. Navy has amassed now exceeds 5,000 — a period longer than the pyramids have been standing.

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