A Story Of (Irrelevant) Nuclear Success At Sea

NS-OTTO-HAHN-NUCLEAR-SHIPNuclear Ship Postage Stamp - Otto HahngCaptain has covered nuclear ships in the past highlighting America’s only nuclear merchant ship, the N/S Savannah and brought you pictures from Russia’s nuclear icebreakers but we missed one piece of atomic history… the N/S Otto Hahn.

The Otto Hahn was one of only four nuclear-powered cargo vessels so far built. Planning of a German-built trade and research vessel to test the feasibility of nuclear power in civil service began in 1960, and Otto Hahn’s keel was laid down in 1963 by Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG of Kiel. She was launched in 1964 and named in honour of Otto Hahn, the German chemist and Nobel prizewinner, who was credited with the discovery of nuclear fission of uranium in 1938. The first captain of the Otto Hahn was Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, a famous German U-Boat ace of World War II.

In 1968, the ship’s 38-megawatt nuclear reactor was taken critical and sea trials began. In October of that year, NS Otto Hahn was certified for commercial freight transport and research.

Configured to carry passengers and ore, Otto Hahn made her first port call in Safi, Morocco, loading a cargo of phosphate ores, in 1970. In 1972, after four years of operation, her reactor was refueled. She had covered some 250,000 nautical miles (463,000 km) on 22 kilograms of uranium.

In 1979 Otto Hahn was deactivated. Her nuclear reactor and propulsion plant were removed and replaced by a conventional diesel engineroom. In nine years, she had traveled 650,000 nautical miles (1,200,000 km) on nuclear power, visiting 33 ports in 22 countries.
In 1983, Otto Hahn was recommissioned as the container ship Trophy and leased into commercial service. On 19 November of that year, she was renamed Norasia Susan. She became the Norasia Helga in 1985, Hua Kang He in 1989, Anais in 1998, Tal in 1999 and finally Madre in the same year. Her last owner, from 2006, was the Liberian-based Domine Maritime Corporation, under the management of Alon Maritime Corporation of Athens, Greece. The ship was scrapped at Alang, India in 2009.

Her funnel is preserved at the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum (German Maritime Museum) in Bremerhaven.