The U.S. Air Force is starting to look at possibly fielding small nuclear reactors on domestic air bases in an effort to pursue alternative energy supllies while cutting overall risk associated with being tied to oil, including terrorism concerns.
Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne discussed the idea with the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5. Wynne made clear the effort was in a conceptual phase and faced years of being worked out with local, state and federal officials.
That, I'm sure, is an understatement, considering the idea of nuclear plants is such a ... well ..."nuclear" topic to many U.S. residents. But kudos to the Air Force - the heart of the U.S. government's energy consumption juggernaut - for thinking about how to wean itself off the barrel while bulking up redundancy and reliability. Especially as it takes up new missions like cyberwarfare, which will literally require nonstop, high-volume energy supplies.
Wynne said the idea was to go for 50 megawatt reactors, about the size of an American football field, which would be buried underground inside places like Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Another base is cited for two total under a potential pilot program in conjunction with Energy Department officials. The plants could unleash the bases from the local power grid and possibly supply the local community in an emergency.
Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff, testified along with Wynne that the idea emerged as Air Force officials determined they have pushed as far as reasonably expected in eyeing other alternative energies like wind, solar and thermal.
But Wynne noted after the hearing to reporters that some communities may desire non-nulcear alternatives and the Air Force remains open to other ideas for different domestic bases.