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Marine Applications of Nuclear Power

The advent of modern civilization has powered the ever expanding human footprint on earth which is now present all across land, air and sea. In a historical perspective of the world, some of society's earliest expansion objectives were met through the sea itself. Thereby, the role played by the oceans and human activity across them has been vital politically as well as in commerce. Today, the modern society also does a sizeable chunk of commerce and holds active political interests in the oceans. It has become an established fact that major industrial commerce takes place by the sea route itself as compared to the air route. In defense terms, the major nations of the world have actively developed their naval strengths as defenders, force projectors, front openers as well as defense backbones. Thus, the role of an exceptional naval fleet in any nation's defense and commerce policy is undeniably critical to the country's geo political success. Today, there are naval forces which are as huge as entire cities on water as they are purpose built for global power presence. Undoubtedly, this entire activity has equally huge energy consumption needs.

In land and air based systems energy needs can be met by transport for land as well as base support or mid air support for air needs, the jigsaw comes to fore at sea wherein energy may actually decide the outcome. The operational dynamics of providing energy support at sea are challenging as vessels may not even dock for long periods at go and the support provider itself cannot afford to be marooned in the middle of nowhere. Initially, some nations answered this challenge by powering their naval assets on fossil fuel systems. These worked fine for some time but a growing realization soon dawned upon them that constant replenishment, maintenance, limitation of storage and safety were dampening factors.

The scientific community of developed nations took up the challenge by identifying the two basic needs of energy support at sea. Firstly, the resource had to be long lasting and provide enough energy to meet a multitude of operational requirements in action as well as at peace. Secondly, the resource should have longer replenishment cycles thereby allowing longer range, independence of operation and more uptime to the naval asset at sea. The only resource which has succeeded in meeting all such conditions as also displayed ease of scaling up from built up capabilities is the nuclear energy option.

The adaptation of nuclear energy to power global naval assets has revolutionized the thought process behind this crucial industry.

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