Contract awarded to decommission US nuclear-powered merchant ship

8 April 2021

The US Department of Transportation, through the Maritime Administration (MARAD) on 1 April awarded Nuclear Ship Support Services a $54.4 million contract for the Decommissioning and Licence Termination of the NS Savannah (NSS) - the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship. The contract extends for four years with an option for a fifth. NSS was launched in 1959 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy as part of the Atoms for Peace Programme. After completing its mission, the ship was removed from service and the reactor was defuelled. Currently, all that remains of the nuclear power plant aboard the ship are its systems, structures, and components.

MARAD continues to hold a licence issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to possess and dismantle a non-operational nuclear reactor and power plant aboard the NSS. As the agency implements the decommissioning –- the licence termination (DECON-LT) process -- the facility will remain under the NRC regulatory regimen. Eventually, MARAD will decommission the NSS nuclear facility by removing remaining systems, structures, and components to allow for NRC’s termination of MARAD’s licence without restrictions. Once decommissioned, MARAD will determine the future of the vessel.

Nuclear Ship Support Services is a joint venture comprising Radiation Safety and Control Services and Energy Solutions. James “Jay” Tarzia, co-owner of Radiation Safety and Control Services said NSS had some cargo space, but it was a cruise ship with a swimming pool, lounge and for 10 years it travelled the world to demonstrate peaceful use of nuclear power. NSS was taken out of service in 1971, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. Its nuclear power plant was a pressurised-water reactor.

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