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:
- 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
A Look At Her Reactors
Photos Of Her Today
Other Nuclear Merchant Ships
Russia’s 1988 Nuclear Cargo ship and now drillship N/S Sevorput
Russia has built a number of modern nuclear icebreakers including the Yamal.