The Nuclear Ship Savannah

The United States’ first and only nuclear-powered merchant vessel was designed in hopes of finding peaceful uses for nuclear energy as part of President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program in the 1950s.

The ship was launched on 21 July 1959 at a cost of $46.9 million, which included a $28.3 million nuclear reactor and fuel core. At 596-feet-long she was the pride of the fleet with sleek lines like that of an oceangoing yacht. During her short 5 years of service (1965-1970) she saved over 29 million gallons of fuel oil, but her high maintenance overhead led to her downfall.

In 1981, the Savannah was brought back to her cold war glory by re-activating her as a museum ship offering Americans a glimpse into the atomic age. Visitors could walk the ship’s decks and even tour the reactor from an observation window as well as look into staterooms and passenger areas.  In 1994 her charter was terminated. The Maritime Administration, who is responsible for overseeing the Savannah, had the ship moved to Baltimore where she remains under a 3-year, $588,380 U.S. Maritime Administration contract with the Vane Brothers’ shipyard at the Baltimore’s Canton Marine Terminal.

The U.S. Maritime Administration “intends to maintain the SAVANNAH in protective storage for some years into the future; however, under current law and regulation the decommissioning process must be completed and theSAVANNAH‘s operating license terminated no later than December 2031.”

Photos via HNSA:

Interesting Facts

  • She earned nearly $12,000,000 in revenue.
  • She sailed over 450,000 miles in her five years of merchant service (1965 to 1970).
  • She required a crew of more than 100 mariners.
  • The Army considered using her as a power plant for use during national emergencies.
  • She is being reconditioned primarily due to post 9/11 security concerns.

NS Savannah Documentary – Once Upon A Nuclear Ship

Nixon’s Moscow Mission; Nuclear Ship Comissioned 1959/7/23

N/S Savannah Underway

N/S Savannah with tugs

N/S Savannah underway

A Look At Her Reactors

N/S Savannah cut-out view of reactors
Maintaining Savannah's Nuclear Reactors

Photos Of Her Today

N/S Savannah 2006

Other Nuclear Merchant Ships

N/S Otto Hahn
Germany’s N/S Otto Hahn

Russian Nuclear Drillship Sevmorput
Russia’s 1988 Nuclear Cargo ship and now drillship N/S Sevorput

Nuclear Icebreakers

Russian Nuclear Icebreaker
Russia has built a number of modern nuclear icebreakers including the Yamal.

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  • http://srmorbmsn.com STEPHEN R. MORBLEY

    Wasn’t the N.S. Sasvannah used as a training facility at the Merchant Marine Academy.
    This would have been useful to train Merchant Marine officers on working on and understanding nuclear power applications for
    seagoing vessels.

  • http://srmorbmsn.com STEPHEN R. MORBLEY

    Wasn’t the N.S. Sasvannah used as a training facility at the Merchant Marine Academy.
    This would have been useful to train Merchant Marine officers on working on and understanding nuclear power applications for
    seagoing vessels.

  • Ann C

    I was on the Savannah as a young girl. My uncle was a purchasing agent for the line, and brought my cousin’s Boy Scout Troop and me to the ship. It was fabulous-I enjoyed the technical side and at the same time the ship was so elegant.
    I remember a model ship encased in glass in what I believe to be the dining room. We toured as much of the ship that was allowed. I remember standing and looking out at the long bow.

    Truly hope the ship is restored to its original beauty, and becomes a museum. Wish it was closer.

    Ann in NY

  • Ann C

    I was on the Savannah as a young girl. My uncle was a purchasing agent for the line, and brought my cousin’s Boy Scout Troop and me to the ship. It was fabulous-I enjoyed the technical side and at the same time the ship was so elegant.
    I remember a model ship encased in glass in what I believe to be the dining room. We toured as much of the ship that was allowed. I remember standing and looking out at the long bow.

    Truly hope the ship is restored to its original beauty, and becomes a museum. Wish it was closer.

    Ann in NY

  • Thomas West

    I would like too see the Savannah one last time.
    But I can not find were she is docked?
    If any body knows please let me know.

  • Thomas West

    I would like too see the Savannah one last time.
    But I can not find were she is docked?
    If any body knows please let me know.

  • Mark Danley

    Savannah is moored at the BAE facility in the Elizabeth River in Norfolk VA

  • Mark Danley

    Savannah is moored at the BAE facility in the Elizabeth River in Norfolk VA

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  • Ron Tate

    The N/S Savannah is currently docked at Canton pier in Baltimore Harbour in Maryland-Chesapeake Bay.

  • Ron Tate

    The N/S Savannah is currently docked at Canton pier in Baltimore Harbour in Maryland-Chesapeake Bay.

  • Pingback: Nuclear Ship Savannah Underway | gCaptain.com()

  • Glenn Fiscus

    Worked on it in the 60’s with B&W. We need a reunion! States Marine, Galveston, etc, etc

  • Glenn Fiscus

    Worked on it in the 60’s with B&W. We need a reunion! States Marine, Galveston, etc, etc

  • http://gcaptain.com John

    Glenn,

    It’s great to hear from you. Please feel free to post any stories from the time, we’d love to here them!

  • http://gcaptain.com John

    Glenn,

    It’s great to hear from you. Please feel free to post any stories from the time, we’d love to here them!

    • Glenn Fiscus

      John, The Savannah stuff is 50 or so years old, so we're talking 70+ year olds. The project was milestone effort of noble, but many faceted purpose. Would like to know what remains of those associated with the endeavor? Glenn Fiscus

      • Sally Rock-Blake

        My father, Harvey Rock, (deceased), worked for Babcock & Wilcox and helped design the reactor. My siblings and I went to the christening. One of his colleagues was Don North. Anyone have any knowledge of these two? I'd esp. like to know more about the patent and his part in it. Thanks

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  • guest

    interested in buying.
    who knows nastoyashego vlodeltsa ship?

  • Ivan

    interested in buying.
    who knows the owner of this ship?

  • guest

    interested in buying.
    who knows the owner of this ship?

  • Glenn Fiscus

    John, The Savannah stuff is 50 or so years old, so we're talking 70+ year olds. The project was milestone effort of noble, but many faceted purpose. Would like to know what remains of those associated with the endeavor? Glenn Fiscus

    • Sally Rock-Blake

      My father, Harvey Rock, (deceased), worked for Babcock & Wilcox and helped design the reactor. My siblings and I went to the christening. One of his colleagues was Don North. Anyone have any knowledge of these two? I'd esp. like to know more about the patent and his part in it. Thanks

  • http://gcaptain.com gcaptain

    Sent in by “Domer”:

    MARAD recently submitted their FY10 budget to Congress

    The budget request also includes $3 million in funding to continue nuclear
    license management for the inactive Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH.

    “Ship Disposal
    MARAD maintains the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) as a reserve of ships for defense
    and national emergencies. When ships are no longer considered useful for defense or aid
    missions, the Maritime Administration serves as the U.S. Government's agent for their
    responsible disposal. MARAD continues to pursue alternative disposal methods, such as
    artificial reefing initiatives, with other Federal agencies to minimize impact on the human and
    natural environment. The budget request also includes funding to continue nuclear license
    management for the inactive Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH. The FY 2010 request includes $15.0
    million, no increase over the FY 2009 enacted, to continue to remove obsolete ships from the
    NDRF for disposal. The budget request also includes $3 million in funding to continue nuclear
    license management for the inactive Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH”

    Although it was the first US Flag Merchant nuclear ship, none others have been built here in the United States and to date nuclear energy has not been a viable alternative to carbon based fuels for ships. Three million is not much in the big scheme of US Government spending but personally I think that $3 Million in funding could be better spent else were, like improving Merchant Marine training at the State Academies, or perhaps not spent at all.

  • http://gcaptain.com gcaptain

    Sent in by “Domer”:

    MARAD recently submitted their FY10 budget to Congress

    The budget request also includes $3 million in funding to continue nuclear
    license management for the inactive Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH.

    “Ship Disposal
    MARAD maintains the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) as a reserve of ships for defense
    and national emergencies. When ships are no longer considered useful for defense or aid
    missions, the Maritime Administration serves as the U.S. Government's agent for their
    responsible disposal. MARAD continues to pursue alternative disposal methods, such as
    artificial reefing initiatives, with other Federal agencies to minimize impact on the human and
    natural environment. The budget request also includes funding to continue nuclear license
    management for the inactive Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH. The FY 2010 request includes $15.0
    million, no increase over the FY 2009 enacted, to continue to remove obsolete ships from the
    NDRF for disposal. The budget request also includes $3 million in funding to continue nuclear
    license management for the inactive Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH”

    Although it was the first US Flag Merchant nuclear ship, none others have been built here in the United States and to date nuclear energy has not been a viable alternative to carbon based fuels for ships. Three million is not much in the big scheme of US Government spending but personally I think that $3 Million in funding could be better spent else were, like improving Merchant Marine training at the State Academies, or perhaps not spent at all.

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