As regular Atomic Insights readers know, I gained some of my atomic insights as a commissioned officer in the US Navy. I served for part of my career as an engineering officer on board nuclear powered submarines and gained an up close and personal appreciation for the amazing technology that allows large, speedy ships to operate sealed up deep underwater. I also gained an appreciation for the incredible quantity of energy that natural forces have stored within relatively easy reach inside atomic nuclei. That tightly packed energy allows our modern submarines to be loaded with “life of the hull” fuel supplies. Virginia class submarines will operate for 33 years without ever needing to be refueled.
My service in the Navy not only gave me the technical skills to appreciate the value of the mid 20th century discoveries that enable atomic fission, but it has also given me the ability to write about nuclear energy as a man whose income is not tied to the success or failure of any part of the commercial nuclear power industry. In some heated discussions, it has been valuable to be able to counter the inevitable accusations of being an industry “shill”. Some people just do not play fair and think that it is a huge ding on the credibility of their opponents to be able to toss out those kinds of accusations. (Truth be told, I am not immune to using such arguments myself; I believe that it is difficult for people to completely separate their opinions from their income stream. Full disclosure allows debate observers to more fully understand motives and to make good judgements about credibility.)
It is time to share some information with you about my future career plans. I recently retired from the Navy after nearly 30 years of commissioned service. I have been privileged to have served and been given the opportunity work hard, obtain excellent training, and earn a couple of formal degrees whose costs have been completely paid by my employers (the American taxpayers). However, I am not yet old enough to stop working, so I have been seeking employment that takes advantage of my training and education. As much as I like writing and engaging in public discussions about our future energy choices, an AdSense check every three or four months just does not cut it.
After a careful survey of the potential opportunities, I decided to focus my job search on companies that are moving forward to design and build new nuclear power plants. I have been incredibly fortunate – especially in the current economic situation – to have received and accepted an offer of employment with the project that was at the top of my list – B & W’s Generation mPowerTM.
Not only is B & W a well established company with a terrific reputation for quality products in the power industry, but it is also developing a simplified small modular reactor that builds on 50 years worth of light water reactor technology development and licensing experience. Anyone who has been reading Atomic Insights for any length of time will know that I have been talking and writing about the advantages of smaller reactors for more than a decade. I am truly excited about the fact that by the end of this week I will start working with a talented team on a really important development project – the 125 MWe mPowerTM nuclear plant.
I freely admit it – I now have a vested interest in the success of at least a portion of the commercial nuclear power industry.
I hope to continue writing and sharing my knowledge. As has always been the case with my atomic information sharing efforts, there will be some topics that I cannot and will not write about. The Navy has its secrets; so do all commercial companies. I have always respected and protected secrets. However, there is much that can and should be discussed.
Please forgive me if my pace of my written and oral contributions slows; there is a LOT of work to do to make it possible for the United States to regain some of its nuclear energy leadership. For many years, I have expressed the view that one of the paths that will help is the development of reactor power systems that can serve markets that large power plants cannot reach. It is time to do more than just write about that opportunity; it is time to help make the opportunity turn into a tangible reality that is actually providing reliable electricity to customers.