Navy seeks solution for decommissioned nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise
The US Navy faces a huge dilemma over what to do with the decommissioned USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the pride of the Navy for 50 years, from its commissioning in 1961 to its decommissioning in 2012. Officially decommissioned in 2017, it sits in Virginia, costing millions of dollars a year in maintenance costs, but could take more than $1 billion and up to 15 years to dismantle safely. security.
Having been the epitome of the US military, not only because of her size, which earned her the nickname “Big E”, she became the centerpiece of the modern navy. The US Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Enterprise was commissioned in 1961 and participated in critical missions including the blockade of Cuba during the 1962 Missile Crisis, circumnavigation of the globe without refueling, participation in John Glenn’s first orbit tracking space program in the Friendship 7 capsule, deployment during the Vietnam and the pursuit of more recent roles in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf.
In the first phase of its dismantling, the Navy took care of its eight reactors installed in four reinforced compartments. As part of the process, nuclear fuel was removed from all eight reactors, but since then the ship has remained at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. At its current location, workers are tasked with maintaining and inspecting the carrier undertaking tasks ranging from protecting the vessel against water intrusion to combating peeling paint, leaks and damage. other threats.
Ongoing probably in the 1990s
In an effort to resolve the carrier’s fate, the Navy wrote a 586-page report exploring pragmatic options for dealing with the ship. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Decommissioned and Decarbonized Ex-Enterprises (CVN 65) and its Associated Naval Reactor Plants Report identifies four options for the fate of the vessel. In the next phase, the Navy seeks public input during a 45-day public scoping period.
“The Navy is committed to facilitating public and agency participation and input to ensure comprehensive environmental analysis and informed decision-making. Public input and participation are fundamental aspects of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process,” the Navy said in the report.
The Navy, in its draft report, has proposed that one option is simply no action. This means that the ex-USS Enterprise would not be dismantled or disposed of and would be stored in the water indefinitely at its current location. However, this would include maintenance and inspection work to prepare the vessel for indefinite storage in water in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner. Even with the “no action” option, the Navy would incur a bill of $10 million per year as it would require periodic maintenance to ensure storage continues in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner.
Letting the Enterprise sit in Newport News is ideally not what the Navy wants, as it is bound to pose challenges in the future as it continues to degrade. Maintenance costs would increase as the ship aged and the hull deteriorated, requiring repairs to ensure watertightness.
“The no-action alternative only delays the ultimate permanent disposal of the ex-Enterprise, as dismantling is required by Navy policy. Storage in water is not a permanent solution and does not is considered satisfactory only on a provisional basis,” the report noted.
For this reason, the Navy has offered three other options, two of which involve partial decommissioning in partnership with the private sector and one full decommissioning by a private company.
Disabled, she was transferred to Newport News SB in 2013
The two alternatives for partially dismantling it would include towing the Enterprise to a licensed commercial dismantling facility in Texas or Alabama, where it would be partially dismantled by removing areas of the ship outside the reactor compartments, leaving a section of propulsion space (about one-third of the carrier’s original weight and length). Decommissioning work would be handled through the Navy’s contracting process. These options are expected to cost $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion each and take 15 years to complete.
The final option, which the Navy has designated as the “preferred alternative,” is to hire a private contractor to completely dismantle the ship at a facility in Virginia, Texas or Alabama. Choosing this option would cost between 554 and 696 million dollars and would entail the complete dismantling of the ship in five years.
“This alternative is based on the successful and ongoing dismantling of a conventional Navy aircraft carrier by contract at commercial facilities, the successful dismantling of a commercial reactor plant discharged by contract with radiological services companies and the successful dismantling of a US Army barge (Sturgis) containing an unloaded nuclear reactor nuclear reactor under contract with nuclear service companies at commercial facilities,” the report states.
He adds that several civilian, land-based and dumped reactors, which are larger than Navy aircraft carrier reactors, have been dismantled and successfully disposed of by the commercial radiological services industry.
In the meantime, the Big E waits at the yard in the shadow of its successor. Two weeks ago, HHI hosted the CVN 80’s official keel laying ceremony at its Newport News shipbuilding division. CVN 80, scheduled for completion in 2028, is the third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier and has been given the name Enterprise.