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It’s been a year since President Barack Obama called on America to enter the next Sputnik moment with regard to clean energy, high-speed rail and other innovations. It’s time we go for something far more bold and brash that’ll send ripples of innovation throughout our country — an all-nuclear-powered naval fleet.

First, the science and history lesson. In recent years, there’s been a revival about a nuclear fuel called thorium. In the 1960s this was found to be a viable fuel source used in a liquid flouride thorium reactor that was more abundant (thorium is as common as lead, as opposed to uranium-235, which is as rare as gold), more efficient (used over 95 percent of its nuclear fuel, which minimized waste), safer (LFTRs are operated at low pressure instead of the 150 atmospheres that today’s nuclear reactors use), smaller (the required size would be one-sixth the size of normal plants) and provided less proliferation (due to technical issues, thorium did not produce useful nuclear weaponry).

This is not science fiction; it is established science. LFTR is technology the U.S. developed in the 1950s and ’60s but abandoned in favor of light water reactors (like the type used in Fukushima and Three Mile Island) — thanks in part to the then-Cold War reality of nuclear proliferation. Despite it being technology we developed, China already has plans — in addition to building 50 traditional nuclear power plants — to research and develop LFTRs in the hopes of securing intellectual property to sell to the rest of the world, including the U.S. Instead of becoming consumers of this technology in 30 years, why not become the competitive producers?

It’s time the U.S. Navy leads the way in this by making the call to become a nuclear-powered fleet. Until I found out about the benefits of thorium and LFTRs I’d have thought such a thing was a pipe dream. Having learned about it, it seems obvious we need to focus resources on the research and development of this concept. With nuclear fleets, there’s not just a reduction of greenhouse gases and less dependence on fossil fuels; we’d get all the other benefits with trained technicians experienced in working in an industrial environment leaving the Navy and working in our civilian equivalent plants. The training that’ll be required to meet this workload will push the U.S. to the lead in education. No longer will there need to be a reliance on other countries for fuel.

Let’s not drop the ball on this.

Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Applin

Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan

Foreign policy hurts the dollar

The Jan. 11 article “West’s penalties taking toll on Iran” states: “As the United States and European Union prepare steps designed to cut the oil revenue that is the Islamic Republic’s chief source of income, Iran has responded with threats of military retaliation, including warnings that it might close the Strait of Hormuz, a lifeline for oil and gas shipments from the Persian Gulf.” Did we shoot ourselves in the foot here?

This letter is about the economy and another self-inflicted dollar wound. We halted all Iranian oil sales to the U.S. and EU, but India and China are still buying oil from Iran — to the detriment of all holders of dollars. The dollar’s value is diminishing because, according to at least one report, it is no longer the reserve currency in which oil from Iran to India trades. That report says India now uses gold to buy oil. Imagine that! If this is true, it should not be too long for this idea to catch on elsewhere.

Our legislative and executive leaders in Washington take these steps, and consequently make our money less valuable. Our money is already weak enough without doing things that make it worse.

A total exodus from these Mideast wars is overdue. Israel, India, China and the U.S. have nuclear weapons. No one denies them these nuclear defense arsenals. The Obama administration and Congress, along with our ally Israel, endlessly try to keep Iran away from any such defense.

My concern is not with our ally — the Israelis say they can take care of themselves and that’s their business, not ours — but the U.S. needs leadership change. That’s just one reason why I am for any legislators who will end fighting, policing and “nation-building” all around the world.

Chief Master Sgt. Alan F. Schechter (retired)

Munich


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