The NS Savannah arriving in San Francisco Bay in 1962. Photo courtesy National Archives

MARAD Seeks Public Comment on the Decommissioning and Disposition of NS Savannah, the World’s First Nuclear-Powered Ship

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 14555
January 13, 2023

The U.S. maritime Administration is seeking public comment on a draft plan to decommission the NS Savannah, the world’s first nuclear powered merchant ship.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) has drafted a Programmatic Agreement (PA) among the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and the Maryland State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), regarding the decommissioning and disposition of the vessel in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA).

The NS Savannah was launched in 1959 as the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship under the “Atoms for Peace” program, which was established by President Eisenhower in 1953.

MARAD is authorized to posses, operate and maintain the vessel under a license first issued by the former Atomic Energy Commission. MARAD operated the ship starting in 1962 until 1970, at which point it was removed from service and defueled in 1971.

The NS Savannah has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) since 1982 and designated as a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 199.

According to the license, MARAD has until December 3, 2031 to decommission NS Savannah’s nuclear power plant, which will require the decontamination, dismantlement, and disposal of systems, structures, and components that make up the nuclear propulsion plant, as well as any other contaminated materials and surfaces. The nuclear power plant is comprised of one 80 MWth pressurized water nuclear reactor; two primary coolant loops and steam generators; one pressurizer; and such other systems, structures and other components.

Once removed, the items will safely stored and transported to a disposal site in the U.S.

The decommissioning process will terminate the license, at which point MARAD will proceed to the disposition of vessel. Due to its historical significance of the vessel, MARAD is seeking public input the decommissioning and disposition of the NS Savannah, with options ranging from maintaining the ship under federal ownership, donating it to an organization for use as a museum ship, artificial reefing, or dismantlement and recycling.

You can watch see more in the video below:

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