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The former Charleston Naval Hospital could get a new lease on life if Charleston County Council accepts an offer to redevelop the property. 

Why do they put the Gideon Bibles in the bedrooms, where it’s usually too late, and not in the barroom downstairs?

Christopher Morley (1890–1957)

Ask a Realtor what’s most important when buying real estate and he’ll likely tell you it’s location, location, location. Ask a successful Wall Street investor what’s most important when buying stocks and bonds, odds are she’ll say it’s timing, timing, timing.

The importance of location, timing and Morley’s personal experience as a sometime journalist are what may have caused him to write the little quip cited above. It was journalism that likely meant he spent more than his fair share of time in hotel rooms with Gideon Bibles on bedside tables, and occasionally with interesting women in downstairs bars. It would not have taken him long to learn that there is a time and place for just about everything if you put your mind to it. And are on an expense account.

In our newspaper this month there were two front-page, above-the-fold stories that particularly caught my eye. The first had a headline that read, “Former Navy hospital may get new life”; the second, “Buyer eyeing abandoned nuclear project.” Both fairly screamed “location, location, timing, timing.” (Neither, though, mentioned anything about Gideon Bibles and downstairs bars.)

I remember when the now derelict but outwardly still handsome “new” Navy hospital opened its doors. The hospital sits on 23 acres near the southern end of North Charleston. The acreage is destined for development, almost certainly sooner rather than later.

The hospital and the grounds surrounding it have had a troubled relationship with developers and local government, city and county. Let’s hope the current firm eyeing investment in the property can put that history to rest and strike a deal that will save the tallest building in North Charleston from demolition. After all, that’s where I had my appendix out.

Of even greater importance to the state of South Carolina is the possible resurrection of the two abandoned and unfinished nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site, 35 miles north of Columbia. More than $9 billion was invested in this project before SCANA, the parent corporation of South Carolina Electric & Gas, pulled the plug after huge cost overruns and construction delays. (SCANA has since been acquired by Virginia-based Dominion Energy.) It’s inconceivable that $9 billion could have been poured into a hole in the ground without there being enough residual value left that someone smart and daring doesn’t come along and finish the job.

It’s interesting to note that two reactors using the same Westinghouse design as the failed V. C. Summer ones are being built in Georgia, where similar cost overruns and delays have been encountered.

The failure of our country to make maximum use of nuclear power to meet its constantly increasing energy needs has been long in the making. The partial meltdown, in 1979, of one of the two operating nuclear plants at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania (and the hyper-alarmist media coverage given the incident) stripped away much of the accumulated public support of nuclear power in America. We now have just 98 operable nuclear power plants in 30 states. Many of these are nearing the end of their expected lives (50 years or more). They likely will need to be replaced by coal-, oil-, or natural gas-fired plants. Solar and wind power are not reliable options, nor are they likely ever to be.

France generates about 70 percent of its electrical power from nuclear plants; the United States only about 20 percent. In time, fusion power will overtake fission as a preferred way to meet our constantly increasing power needs. Research is moving rapidly in that direction. Perhaps within the lifetime of many now living, small, safe and nonpolluting fusion units will provide all the electric power needed by individual homeowners. These units will be part of the house you build, buy, or rent. There no longer will be ugly power poles marring roadside landscapes. What a brave new world it will be.

So long, of course, as someone doesn’t blow it all up before then.

R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.

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