Rising fuel costs could lead to nuclear-powered ships

June 12th, 2008 - 2:02 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 12 (ANI): A bill recently passed by the House of Representatives aims to make many more of the ships in the US naval fleet nuclear powered, including amphibious assault ships that carry troops into combat, a major reason being the rising fuel costs.

This move is a result of recent attacks on US ships that had stopped over for routine refueling at potentially unfriendly ports.

By making may more of the ships in the US naval fleet as nuclear powered, members of the Congress believe they have a way to keep ships out of harms way and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

According to the proponents of the bill, the benefit will be two-fold.

Rocketing oil prices make nuclear power an economic way of funding naval expeditions, and thanks to the slow burn of the highly enriched nuclear fuel in marine reactors, ships will have no need to pull into potentially hostile ports to refuel.

The new bill represents an escalation of recent efforts to get the navy to use more nuclear fuel.

The rising cost of oil means it is getting close to the point at which it will be more economic for the navy to use nuclear power, according to Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican, who backs the proposed measures.

A 2007 study by the navy on alternative energy for ship propulsion indicated that the break-even price for nuclear propulsion for amphibious ships was an oil price of 178 dollars per barrel. Were now creeping up to that number - oil hit a new record of 133 dollars a barrel today, he said in a statement on 21 May.

Nuclear propulsion offers greater power and unparalleled safety and operational endurance without the vulnerabilities of fossil fuel refuelling, according to Bartlett.

According to a report by the US Defense Science Board task force on energy strategy, a major reason nuclear power is being seen as an option for surface ships is because not enough is being done to ensure electronics and radar systems are energy efficient.

This is forcing the navy to look for new power sources to ensure ships have a steady supply during combat.

Equipping such ships with nuclear reactors would have another advantage in military operations, said Lisa Wright, a spokesperson for Bartlett.

Assault ships are carrier escort vehicles and will no longer be holding up a carrier task force’s progress by having to be refuelled every three to five days, she said. (ANI)

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