Even though Gene Taylor lost his reelection bid, he is still an outspoken proponent of nuclear power on naval combatants. The former 11-term congressman from Mississippi’s 4th congressional district, one-time chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee, was part of a panel discussion at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Expo on April 13.
Taylor pointed to the Navy’s strategy of employing Aegis ships such as the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers for ballistic missile defense missions. “DDG 51s need to refuel every three to five days. If I were the adversary, my first move would be to take out the tankers.”
“I think we should put a nuclear power plant in the hull of every hull that would hold it,” Taylor said.
When in Congress, Taylor pushed for legislation that would make the Navy’s new combatants nuclear powered.
“We are requiring that new classes of major surface combatants are designed and constructed with integrated nuclear power systems,” he said at the time the subcommittee was working on the 2008 defense authorization bill.
Taylor was not alone. The ranking minority member of the committee at that time, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., agreed. “Nuclear propulsion is simply the right thing to do.”
Navy officials have said that it is possible, but not always practical to build and operate nuclear surface combatants.
The high cost of oil makes the nuclear option seem to be more viable. But there is more to it than simple economics of fuel. Adding nuclear power would mean an increase in recruitment and training of nuclear officers and enlisted specialists. Construction, maintenance and overhaul require special facilities, and the waste from such work could be considered hazardous material. The cost of disposal of the reactor and other systems is much higher for nuclear ships.