The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) recently partnered with the Naval Historical Foundation to bring together esteemed experts at their Washington, D.C., headquarters to discuss the state of the U.S. nuclear energy industry and its impact on the nuclear Navy and national security.
The symposium began with a look back at the optimism, hard work, and technical expertise that made the vision of the legendary Adm. Hyman G. Rickover a reality. Adm. John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, recounted the innovation and determination accompanying the dawn of nuclear-powered warships.
“It was a stunning achievement on a stunning timeline. Above all else, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program serves as a tacit reminder and inspiration of what can be done with the right amount of imagination, the right amount of energy, and the right amount of authority,” Richardson said.
Adm. James Frank Caldwell Jr., Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, discussed what the fleet is up to now – pointing out that over 45 percent of the combatants in the Navy today are nuclear-powered.
“Last year, we supported some 33 SSBN ballistic missile patrols, approximately 38 submarines were underway on deployment at one point or another, and six aircraft carrier deployments, including three carrier combined operations in the western Pacific
“We’re also building for the future,” Caldwell said of the Ford class aircraft carrier.
“We engineered into the Ford 25 percent more energy into the core and three times the electrical generation capacity to allow us to have growth for the future of that ship. We took out 30 percent of the maintenance and we reduced the force structure – the manning requirements – by 50 percent on that ship, all to drive affordability and make it easier for the crew to operate the ship. It’s an extraordinary vessel,” he said.
Caldwell was joined by Capt. William Ostendorff (Ret.), a U.S. Naval Academy professor and former commissioner on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and also shared the panel with Michael Wallace, a senior adviser for CSIS. Both men emphasized the importance of private-public partnerships between the federal government and the commercial nuclear energy industry.
Former U.S. Senator from Virginia and Secretary of the Navy John Warner closed the event with reflections on his long career and a call to action to protect the civilian nuclear industry stating that the path forward is through legislation.
“This is what we must have. It’s not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of basic survivability,” he said.