Biden and Project Dilithium: What Are They Thinking?

Grind for March 1st, 2019
“Someone once told me not to bite off more than I could chew. I said I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.”

Make Up Your Mind

The Headline

Joe Biden is still talking about running for president

The Grind

Former Vice President Joe Biden says he is “very close” to making a final decision on whether he will run in the 2020 presidential election.

“The first hurdle for me was deciding whether or not I am comfortable taking the family through what would be a very, very difficult campaign,” says Biden, 76. “We do everything by family meetings, because no man or woman has a right to run for public office without it being a family decision.”

Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008. He considered running in 2016, but decided against it following the death of his son Beau to brain cancer.

In October 2016, Biden explained that his son’s death was an ’emotional drain’ that would have prevented him from committing 100% of his energy to a presidential campaign. Later, Biden said he regretted not running “every day.”

The Details

The 2020 race is guaranteed to be a tough one. The Democratic primary field is already crowded, and whoever wins the nomination will need support from progressives, independents, and traditional Democrats.

“No matter who runs – it’s a very difficult campaign,” says Biden. “The primary will be very difficult. And the general election, running against President Trump, I don’t think that he’s likely to stop at anything, whomever he runs against.”

Biden’s 2020 campaign would be much different than his last one, he says, thanks to the rise of social media. He is also unsure whether he can fund his campaign without a super PAC.

“I can die a happy man having never lived in the White House,” Biden said Tuesday to a crowd at the University of Delaware. “But what I don’t want to do is I don’t want to take people’s time, effort, and commitment without there being a clear shot that I could be the nominee…I have not made a final decision – but don’t be surprised.”

Are You Sure About That?

The Headline

Experts balk at military’s plans to transport nuclear reactors

The Grind

Last month, the Defense Department issued a request for information (RFI) in support of a new proposal that seeks to develop “micro-reactors” for use at forward operating military bases.

The proposal, dubbed “Project Dilithium,” calls for portable reactors that meet the following specifications

— Nearly indestructible

— Total weight of less than 40 tons

— Able to operate with little maintenance

— Able to run for 3+ years without refueling

The ideal reactor would have an “inherently safe design” that ensures public safety in case of “various complete failure scenarios” including an “adversary attack,” reads the RFI. It should also be capable of being transported by land, air, or sea within seven days of a shutdown.

Such a device does not currently exist, but the military wants to see a demonstration by 2023.

The Details

Project Dilithium would provide cheap energy and eliminate the sometimes dangerous task of transporting diesel fuel to military bases, but it would also introduce irradiated nuclear fuel into war zones.

“If commanders need to expend significant resources to protect the reactors or their support systems from military strikes, such reactors could become burdens rather than assets,” writes physicist Edwin Lyman.

Even worse, the reactors could contain the same type of uranium used to make nuclear bombs.

“Even a reactor as small as 1 megawatt-electric would contain a large quantity of highly radioactive, long-lived isotopes … a potential dirty bomb far bigger than the medical radiation sources that have caused much concern among security experts,” continues Lyman.

In other words, the chances of success are low and the risks are high.

“Hopefully pragmatists at the Defense Department will realize this and pull the plug on this misguided effort before billions of dollars are wasted on a fruitless search for a reactor as rare as a dilithium crystal.”

Did you know… According to Mark Twain, his “Tom Sawyer” in 1876 was the first novel written on a typewriter.