More Skimmer Nukes In The Future?
As it is now, about half of all students going through the enlisted Nuclear Power Training pipeline get assigned to surface ships (meaning carriers) -- all non-submarine volunteers, all women, and even a few Nukes who volunteer for submarine duty. If the Navy goes the direction the Congress wants in the 2008 Defense Authorization bill, there might be even more submarine volunteers getting pressed into skimmer duty:
House and Senate lawmakers are requiring the Navy to power its future classes of cruisers with nuclear reactors, unless the service decides that doing so isn't "in the national interest." This somewhat muddled provision is contained in the recently released fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill.Nuclear-powered cruisers make sense on a lot of levels (especially considering the cost of oil) but it'll require a lot more Nukes in the Navy -- which means bigger re-enlistment bonuses for those who are already in. Everyone wins! (Still, the odds that the Navy won't exercise the "national interest" provision to opt out of CGNs are fairly low.)
The provision states that all new ship classes of submarines, aircraft carriers and cruisers should be built with nuclear power plants. Since the Navy's plans for submarines and carriers already include nuclear propulsion, the provision would most directly affect the service's next-generation cruiser, designated CG(X). If nuclear powered, the service's designation for the ship would be CGN(X).
The Navy plans to award the contract for the lead ship of the CG(X) class of cruisers in 2011, at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion, and 18 more by 2023. Because of the long lead times needed to order nuclear components, procurement funds for the proposed cruiser's nuclear power plant would have to be included in the 2009 budget, currently being drafted by the Defense Department.
But if the Navy prefers to equip its future cruisers with conventional power, it does have an out. The measure states that with the budget request for the CG(X), the Defense secretary can submit a notification that "inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system is not in the national interest."