Nuclear Navy Veteran’s Co-op Course | Arkansas Business News

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Vernon “Buddy” Hasten, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Co-operatives, was a 20-year-old nuclear submariner in the United States Navy.

He thanks the service for making him an officer and an engineer. Fate and genetics made him lively, lively and funny.

After Arkansas Business published a headline “Cooperatives Accused of Blocking the Sun” on a story of solar interconnection disputes, it created an image of the cooperative’s logo between the sun and the Earth, creating an eclipse. He put it in a document. Next, an image of a bottle of “Co-Opertone” sunscreen.

“Look, the most affordable power system in the world probably isn’t very reliable,” he said in a rambunctious 90-Minute interview over a table bearing a wooden model of a submarine. Los Angeles class attack. Hasten served on two, the USS Phoenix, which put him in command of the reactor, and the USS Scranton, where Lt. Cmdr. Hasten was an engineering officer years later. “Let’s be real. The sun goes down every night.

The nuclear navy forces a sailor to face the facts, Hasten said. “I grew up in an underwater force that didn’t tolerate people who wouldn’t face real problems. This is how nuclear accidents happen. If you can’t handle reality, they’ll catch you and kick you off the ship. Hasten’s quick laugh made him tilt his hand; he meant it figuratively.

Hasten quickly took to his roots in Arkansas after succeeding Duane Highley as senior executive of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corp. in 2019. His previous job was vice president, engineering and construction, at Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. of Springfield, Missouri.

“I grew up in Iowa, but I love being in Arkansas,” he said. “This job is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Other than marrying my wonderful wife. But I didn’t leave Iowa because I didn’t like it, or because I argued with my dad. I left because there was no work. I am a child of the 80s and all of a sudden the factories were closing, there were no more jobs. I joined the army because what else do you do in a hometown like mine? »

From its landlocked state off the coast of Nebraska, Hasten traveled the world, “exciting electrons” under the North Pole, in the Panama Canal and under most of the seven seas. He earned an engineering degree from Auburn along the way and ended up working for the Navy’s equivalent of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Naval Reactors.

When Hasten retired after 20 years of service, Iowa was still short of jobs. After settling in Arkansas, the Hastens were joined by two of their children, a daughter graduating from college and a son completing a stint in the military. The son now works in cybersecurity for Acxiom, the son’s wife as an operations manager for a medical transcription company. Both work remotely. Hasten’s daughter changed companies when her employer wouldn’t let her work from home with her new baby.

“Grandparents and grandchildren don’t have to be separated by jobs in a world where we can work remotely,” said Hasten, whose member co-ops are rapidly installing fiber optic cables on their lines of distribution. Their goal is to bring high-speed Internet access to rural Arkansas, much like the co-ops did with electricity in the last century. “It’s a very empowering and empowering thing.”

Hasten has bubbled up with positive reports on all facets of co-op mission, but he’s become a fan of small modular reactors, which he sees as a possible source of generation in Arkansas. The AECC provides wholesale electricity to the state’s 17 distribution cooperatives, which in turn serve approximately 600,000 member homes and businesses.

It foresees a cooperative future energy mix with more solar (two grids of more than 100 megawatts were announced last week, promising to absorb 10% of the total peak load), a combined cycle natural gas plant as a bridge generation and a network of small modular reactors or SMRs. Remember the Navy ones? It has 72 nuclear submarines, 11 nuclear aircraft carriers and nine nuclear cruisers in service.

“I understand what’s going on inside this factory better than what’s going on in this office,” Hasten said. “If America wants to be serious about net zero carbon, and we don’t want to start fanning ourselves again in the summer, we need to have something energy dense. There’s coal and there’s gas. There’s years it was wood, but the only thing the world knows today that could do the job without emissions is nuclear.

Four SMRs are nearing completion worldwide for utility use, and the factory-built modules may seem experimental. But not for Hasten, who noted that the United States has been building two a year for decades.

“They’re here,” he said, pointing to the model, “in the submarines.”

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