I was pleased to read that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recently approved the construction of two new power-generating nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia. It is hard for me to believe that these are the first new reactors approved by the government since 1978. That has been quite a dry spell for nuclear energy in this country, and I think it’s great that our nation is finally moving forward again with the construction of new nuclear power plants, with I assume more to follow.

Despite the ongoing challenge of figuring out a long-term solution for the disposal of spent fuel rods and other nuclear waste, the advantages of nuclear power are many. Nuclear energy does not generate greenhouse gases and our nation is energy independent when it comes to the nuclear fuel source. In addition, today’s reactors are safer than ever.

If there is a downside to this plan, it is that the technology is very expensive and utilities that wish to employ nuclear power generation will require large government loan guarantees to finance their construction. My understanding is that the Southern Company utility will receive $8.3 billion in conditional loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy to build the new reactor plants, which are expected to cost a total of about $14 billion. Ultimately, the utility’s customers will be required to pay off the debt.

* * *

I was also pleased to learn that the Pentagon is going to move forward with a plan to relax some of the rules on women in combat. I personally believe that women have proven themselves to be up to the task of performing at the highest levels in our armed forces, and I see no reason to restrict them from combat duties. I’m curious what you think about these changes.

* * *

If you’ve been following the news, you probably know that applications for unemployment continue to fall — they are now at their lowest rate since April 2008. It is also expected that the unemployment rate will continue to fall in coming months.

While this bodes well for the continued improvement of our economy, it will weaken any Republican challenger’s position in the coming election. If people see their personal finances improving next November, then they are going to be less likely to want to take a chance with a new administration.

– Bob

4 Responses to “Nuclear Reactors, Women in Combat, and Improving Economy”

  1. 1 J. R. Matias

    Dr. Beyster,

    Modern warfare has evolved so much in the last two decades that the concept of ‘front lines ‘no longer apply. My daughter has served 2 tours as a US Army officer in Iraq and just recently arrived on her third tour this time in Afghanistan. I did not expect that our fifth generation of soldiers in the family to be my eldest daughter. Certainly, IED’s and mortar barrages do not discriminate according to sex of military personnel. Equal rights for women cannot be restricted to the workplace or the home; it must also mean the right to bear arms and defend the country along side men.

    The process of integration in the military is often times viewed by some as troublesome in the beginning. Take for example the integration of African-Americans in combat units after World War II. Some of us grumble at the thought of women in combat, but once done, we, as a nation, move onwards successfully towards the next pressing issue.

    I agree with you and the Pentagon that women should serve equally as men in combat units in the near future.



  2. 2 keith nightingale


    In today’s ambiguous and usually non-state warfare, combat is where u find it. It is no longer the domain of the non-existant frontline or the traditional combat arms (infantry, armor, artillery). In fact, as proven every day, any deployed soldier/sailor,airman or marine is subject to “combat.” IED’s are non-discriminatory in regard to race, gender or ethnicity. Hundreds of women have been both exposed, subjected to and killed or wounded in today’s combat.

    As a 30 year professional soldier, I strongly believe that women and gay’s can and should serve in the military. The one caveat I hold is that they should not serve in the Infantry or Ranger units. They can and do serve in the leading edge SOF elements and are very effective. Their participation is specifically designed to take advantage of their gender. I should also caveat regarding gays that I specifically mean practicing gay’s in the Infantry. I would have no problem with a celibate gay in an Infantry squad. Why is that?

    The essence of successful direct action (kinetic in today’s vernacular) is unit cohesion. Inter-personal relationships beyond team bonding is highly destructive to that cohesion. It is crucial in close-in gritty combat that everyone look out for themselves while looking out for their buddies to the left and right. When emotional relationships enter, a soldier is more concerned for the relationship partner than him or herself-that is deadly to both the unit and the individual.

    That said, in any other type unit, women can and should serve and will be very valuable. I am reminded of a scene I saw in downtown Baghdad shortly after the war began. It was about 130 degrees and I was standing by a downtown road checkpoint with several of the SAIC security guys.

    Directing traffic was a rather short heavily laden soldier. As I approached, it was clear to me she was a woman. Her hair was knotted up behind her helmet and she was wearing the Kwakiutl patch of the Washington State National Guard. She had on Type 4 heavy Kevlar (close to 25 pounds), full TA 50 gear, an M4 rifle in her left hand and was directing traffic with her right. Sweat was pouring down her neck and face.

    She was in the most dangerous situation any soldier could be. With a wave of her hand, a car or truck of Iraqis passing less than 3 feet from her would either be directed to the pass lane or to the inspection lane. A suicide bomber, knowing he would be discovered, could choose that moment of direction to press the plunger and obliterate the intersection-which quite frequently happened. Her decisions meant life and death for her in an instant.

    I walked up to her and asked how she was doing. Without hesitation and still directing, she said to me: “I’m fine sir. I’m doing what I was sent to do and I love it.” You can’t make this up. This was a first class soldier.

    A good friend of mine, LTG (Ret) John Vines, awarded a Silver Star to a female truck driver who was ambushed in a convoy. Several of the accompanying MP’s were wounded. Without hesitation, she grabbed her rifle, got out of the truck and with the assistance of two male soldiers, assaulted the ambush line, got into the trench, alternately grenaded and cleared the trench of the assaulting force working in tandem with the other soldiers. It was a textbook clearing operation only real.

    One concern I do have regarding “women in combat” is the inability of the Institutional Army to allow women in combat MOS’ without “adjusting the standard” for entrance. By this I mean the Army invariably re-guages entrance standards so women can qualify-the PC aspect makes them appear less than capable to their male peers and further reduces cohesion. If the Army made the entrance standards for specific MOS’ the same-that would be a great move-but history shows it can’t.

    When I commanded the Ranger Training Brigade, I received a great deal of pressure from TRADOC to both enter physical failures as well as to address women in Ranger School. My commanding general (Mike Spigelmire) and I sent a message to Gen Thurman (then CG, TRADOC) that said we would be happy to invite women soldiers to Ranger School PROVIDED that they can meet the present entrance physical fitness test standards. Tradoc immediately dropped the question. I know there are women who can make the standard-I have seen them.

    A long answer to a short question. I support women in combat and in most branches. I do not support them in Infantry units. Men and women are different for a reason and regardless of how much education and training is done with wishful thinking, we all revert to primordial instincts-thats why we are here today and didn’t perish as a species on the Serengeti Plain.

  3. 3 Dr. Beyster

    Keith: I miss you, and am glad that you are keeping in touch. We had some very good times together, didn’t we? I appreciate your message about who should serve in the armed services, and especially the story about the female National Guard soldier who was directing traffic in Baghdad at the beginning of the war. It was a perilous position to be in, and I’m sure that no one could have done the job any better than she was doing it. — Bob

  4. 4 Dr. Beyster

    J.R.: Thank you for sending me the story about your daughter. I am pleased to hear that she is continuing your family’s tradition of distinguished service to our nation. Please thank her for me. — Bob

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