Nuclear: a powerful future | The Spectator Australia

As a Merchant Navy navigator, I knew that my ship’s range and durability were inherently limited by fuel capacity.

In the late 1960s, when he was the new junior third officer of the old passenger ship, the Francois Drakewe docked in Yokohama opposite the world’s first nuclear freighter Savanna – a stunning yacht-style vessel. She was the Marilyn Monroe of the shipping industry!

At 4 p.m., when of the savannah passengers began to return from their shore excursions, I made the trip. Dressed in full uniform and carrying a large envelope marked “ORDERS” (containing a handwritten take-out list in Chinese), I began my brisk walk across the pier.

Despite the official crowd, including security personnel, at the bottom of the of the savannah catwalk, I deliberately walked through them and straight onto the catwalk. Bluff was working then. Nowadays, you need a badge, a rifle, a peaked cap and an Alsatian dog.

The bright orange Art Deco styling of the upholstery and the space-age style of the salon and reception areas made our former ship built in 1948 look like a floating relic from a dark Charles Dickens novel.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that they realized I was an impostor, apprehended me, and then politely escorted me off the ship despite my protestations that I had mistaken their ship for mine.

the Savannah was a showcase for US President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace initiative. Considering that in the post-WWII era, the mere mention of the word “atom” caused people to instinctively hold their heads and lean forward, this particular initiative was a good one.

Around the same time, the Germans built the Otto Hahn and the Japanese built Mutsu, both were nuclear powered. The 164 meters Otto Hahn managed to travel 250,000 nautical miles (11 trips around the world) with a very impressive 22 kilograms of uranium – without greenhouse gas emissions!

No other electrical system comes close to nuclear.

Success stories are usually short-lived. The bean counters in the US administration have decided that losing $2 million a year isn’t worth it and that Savannah was mothballed.

That was in 1973, when oil cost $20 a ton. The US administration had no idea that just a year later, the Arab oil embargo would quadruple fuel oil to over $80 a ton. Although this is a small change indeed from today’s standards.

Savannah was able to circumnavigate the earth 14 times at 20 knots without refueling. Today, a similar installed power of 14,000 kW would cost around US$49 million in fuel alone.

America, Japan and Germany have decommissioned their nuclear ships. Even the Otto Hahn was redesigned and successfully operated as a cargo vessel. The Russian nuclear freighter Sevmorput was built 20 years later Savannah and would be operational in Russia. America and Russia still have a number of nuclear-powered warships and submarines that have proven unparalleled operational range and safety.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard tried to open the debate on nuclear power because Australia was ideally placed to develop a nuclear industry. He failed.

It was not a smart move to close the University of NSW’s nuclear engineering faculty, but with the government bans in place, compliments of the still disgruntled Greens and Labour, what else could they do?

In 2019, the NSW government’s bipartisan committee approved the repeal of the 1986 ban on uranium mining and nuclear power. The technology, especially its security aspects, has improved considerably. Interested persons should join the ANA (Australian Nuclear Association), which is a source of sensible discussion on nuclear energy.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), adapted from naval ship installations, are the latest development in nuclear technology. They have a lower cost and a much lower risk of pollution. These are put on barges and hooked up in remote cities in Russia. Since most of the Australian population is in the coastal towns, why not copy this success in Australia? This country has abundant sources of uranium and thorium, while being politically and geologically stable.

For Australia as a nation, nuclear power makes sense. This is all the more true now that we are committed to nuclear submarines and need to restart our nuclear engineering faculties in universities and train local workers.

Australia has a unique opportunity here, but are leaders ready to seize the nettle and move from rhetoric to action?

There are many nuclear ships in the world. The very construction of these ships, even in the event of an accident or incident, makes them a much safer bet than older shore-based facilities such as Chernobyl. Despite press panic, in Fukushima there has been only one confirmed death caused by the nuclear facility, seven years after the Tōhoku earthquake. By contrast, there are 19,747 recorded deaths, 2,556 people missing (presumed dead) and 6,242 seriously injured from the tsunami.

We don’t need the ABC giving oxygen to the malcontents with their ritual belching of misinformation.

We need many more visionary people to stand up for what is good for our country.

As a nation approaching an election at the same time we watch Europe and the UK go through a world of pain with a lack of affordable electricity, should we commit to renewables or nuclear?

Boris Johnson has finally ramped up construction of the nuclear power plant as announced last year.

As a ship designer, I can confirm that nuclear is the most obvious answer, but there is an absence of dialogue on “vision policies” by our potential leaders.

Be careful who you vote for!

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs

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