As far as we can tell, the U.S. Navy has a very good track record operating nuclear powered ships. So it make sense that the Navy should be responsible for running our nuclear powered icebreakers. Yes, to acquire funding this would probably have to be disguised as “defense” or “homeland security,” or maintaining our Arctic sovereignity, or some such bullshit. Obviously, a nuclear powered ship needs enough defenses to keep it from being hijacked or blown up by terrorists.
It might be worth having some kind of “big” gun for them to fire across Paul Watson’s bow, just in case we have to start defending the poor downtrodden Japanese “whalers” from Watson up in the Arctic.
While I am very much in favor of very friendly cooperation with Canada, I don’t see a jointly owned or operated nuclear icebreaker as a politically viable possibility, at least not in Canada. First, we need to stop jerking Canada around and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
I say let Canada build or buy its own icebreakers to facilitate the development of its own Arctic resources. The Canadians are richer than we are because they have a lot of oil and mineral wealth with only 1/10th of our population, and they don’t waste half their national budget on unnecessary “defense” expenditures.
Our icebreakers should be used primarily to facilitate development of our Arctic resources and to support the establishment of infrastructure, especially oil and gas. They should NOT be used to subsidize foreign flag shipping by keeping the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage open to give Chinese goods a faster route to Europe. If Europe wants to get goods faster, they can start buying them in America. If Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, and Liberian flag ships want to use the Northwest Passage, let them pay for their own icebreakers.
The best thing we can do to strengthen our own national defense is to build a stronger national economy. The best way to do that is to make North America completely energy independent. This would do more for our national defense than every gun that we could ever build. The US, Canada, and Mexico have enough oil and gas to easily make North America energy independent.