There's lots of talk inside and outside the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, and of course the NRC, on the development of new generations of advanced design reactors as well as the Bill Gates-fueled buzz surrounding their tiny cousins known as mini or "pocket nukes".
Experts recognize the advantages that small reactors – sometimes called “grid appropriate reactors” - could bring to more resilient energy grid. The Department of Energy has established a small reactor program, and industry groups have held workshops on the topic. Foreign entities have embraced the idea; Toshiba has been marketing their “4S” reactor for a number of years.
While US utilities have mainly pursued fossil fuel generation options, which require less capital investment, the balance of nuclear expertise has shifted overseas. European nuclear generating capacity has been growing quietly and advances in Asia have been dramatic. Korea and China, in particular, have been building new plants, not only at home, but for exports throughout the developing world. US capabilities in nuclear power design, fabrication and construction have dwindled over recent decades, with the remnants of once-powerful US nuclear engineering companies, such as Westinghouse (Toshiba) and GE (Hitachi) being sold to foreign companies.
In a bid to save lives and money, the US Department of Defense on Tuesday presented its first plan to change how it uses energy at home and on the battlefield.
The strategy, which will be fleshed out this summer with a more detailed implementation plan, constitutes the Pentagon's promise to develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources (Insert: No More Nukes!) and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops (Insert: What about the "leaders"?).
The plan is the Pentagon's broadest effort yet to come to grips with its huge and growing reliance on energy to carry out military operations. That energy dependence has proved especially costly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to soaring fuel bills and a dangerous reliance on vulnerable fuel convoys.
"The less [energy] we need, the more operationally resilient we will be," Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn said at a briefing. "We will increase military effectiveness while lowering our costs.
The goals of the new strategy are to cut energy demand by forces in the field and to accelerate the development of alternative-energy supplies, such as renewable sources and biofuels. The military hopes the new plan will pay dividends both on the battlefield, by creating more lethal and more agile troops, and in budget-conscious Washington, by saving money over the long term with more-efficient gear.
The Defense Department is the biggest single energy consumer in the U.S., spending $15 billion on fuel last year. The Air Force alone uses more oil than some small countries. Some 80% of convoys in Afghanistan are devoted to carrying fuel. Because of the threat from roadside bombs and ambushes, Marines estimate one service member is killed or wounded for every 24 convoys.
The new strategy's focus is on operations, including training, deployment and support of military forces in the field. Those activities account for about 75% of the Pentagon's energy use. Only one quarter of the energy is consumed on bases.
While the energy strategy is new—the product of a congressional mandate in the 2009 defense authorization bill—separate branches of the service have been grappling with energy problems for years, with mixed results.
The issue has gained greater urgency due to the high price of oil and the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces over the last decade have gotten bigger and heavier and gobbled up increasing amounts of energy that require a costly and vulnerable supply system. In World War II, a soldier consumed an average of a gallon of fuel a day; in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers consume about 20 gallons a day, with half going to electricity generation.
"It's absolutely necessary, because the cost of energy has become a critical aspect of military operations," said Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
But he said the real test for the Pentagon's new plan will be how it is executed over the long term and across the different services.
At combat outposts in Afghanistan, the Army is already fielding a new generation of more efficient electric generators and experimenting with smart grids that can further reduce fuel needs. Both the Army and the Marines are using small, portable solar panels to help troops in the field power their ever-increasing array of batteries.
The next priority is to diversify energy supplies, with a special focus on reducing the military's dependence on oil by increasing investments in biofuels and renewable energy. "The realities of global oil markets mean a disruption of oil supplies is plausible and increasingly likely in the coming decades," the energy strategy concludes.
The Navy, for example, has experimented with biofuel-powered F-18 fighter jets and is developing the "Great Green Fleet," an aircraft-carrier strike group that will be powered exclusively by alternative fuels and aims to ship out by 2016.
Vice Adm. William Burke, the deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, recently described such acquisitions as the most important part of the Navy's energy-saving push.
He advocated an acquisitions policy "such that we are willing to spend an extra dime here to save a dollar down the road, rather than the other way around, which is what we frequently have done."
Since the beginning of the 20th century energy has been a critical factor for armed forces worldwide. From the end of the Cold War to the first years of the 21st century, the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) energy consumption dropped by some 40 percent, but with the Global War on Terror consumption has raised again.
In fiscal year 2009, the DoD consumed 932 trillion Btu of site delivered energy at a cost of 13.3 billion dollars. Energy consumed per active duty military and civilian personal is 35 percent higher than the U.S. energy consumption per capita, which is amongst the highest in the world. While consuming that amount of energy, DoD emitted 73 million metric tons of CO2, corresponding to over 4 percent of the total emissions in USA.
The DoD accounts for less than 2 percent of the US energy consumption and more than 93 percent of the U.S. government energy consumption. Although this may seem small, the fact is that DoD is the largest single consumer of energy in the United States. Nigeria, with a population of more than 140 million, consumes as much energy as the U.S. military.
On average, mobility fuels (for aircraft, ships, vehicles and equipments) have accounted for three quarters of the DoD’s total energy use over the past two decades. Buildings and facilities have made up the rest.
The U.S. is the strongest military power in the world and just like any other military in the world, energy, in particular energy derived from oil, is at the heart of that power. Oil accounts for nearly 80 percent of total DoD energy consumption, followed by electricity (11 percent), natural gas and coal. DOD pays immense effort for reducing its dependency on conventional oil and seeks ways to use alternative and renewable energy sources. Despite all these efforts, less than 4 percent of the DoD’s energy consumption comes from renewable sources.
The above graphs break down energy consumption by the U.S. Military in 2008 & 2009 based on data from DoD FEMRFY.
The DoD uses 360,000 barrels of oil each day. This amount makes the DoD the single largest oil consumer in the world. There are only 35 countries in the world consuming more oil than DoD. The U.S. Air Force is the largest oil consumer within the DoD services.
Less than half of DoD oil consumption occurs in the continental U.S., and the rest is consumed overseas. According to Sharon E. Burke, the Pentagon’s director of operational energy plans and programs, the Defense Logistics Agency delivers more than 170,000 barrels of oil each day to the war theaters, at a cost of $9.6 billion last year.
Although energy costs represent less than 2 percent of the DoD budget, indirect costs such as those for transporting fuel to battlefields and distributing it to the end-user add to the total. When the average American is paying $3 per gallon of gasoline, the price can soar to $42 a gallon for military grade jet fuel delivered through aerial refueling.
The military is aware of its dependence on energy. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates identified energy as one of the department’s top 25 transformational priorities, and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review addressed energy for the first time as a strategic issue. Although the DoD has already become a leader in some areas of renewable energy, it is yet to be seen whether it will be able to increase its energy efficiency and conservation, create viable alternatives and wean itself off oil.
Original Articles: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304665904576385843719478096.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
Posted by Zach Royer | June 14, 2011 10:48 AM | Please Share or "Like" this article...Thanks!
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