Joint venture to decommission US nuclear ship NS Savannah

31 March 2022

S Savannah the first commercial nuclear power cargo vessel, en route to the World’s Fair in Seattle in 1962 (Photo: US Government)Radiation Safety and Control Services (RSCS) and EnergySolutions have announced a partnership to decommission the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship, the NS Savannah.

RSCS started working with the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration in 2007 on Phase 1 decommissioning preparations and completed this phase in early 2021. 

The RSCS-EnergySolutions Joint Venture (Nuclear Ship Support Services) is now conducting Phase II and Phase III decommissioning where remediation is expected to be complete mid-2023 and License termination expected to be completed by 2025.

“This ship is designed with a one-of-a-kind reactor and associated support systems,” said RSCS Executive Director Jay Tarzia.  

“The goal of the project is to safely and surgically decommission the ship, maintaining maximum ship integrity to preserve this national historic landmark. To complete this job we have assembled a world-class team with our partners EnergySolutions to achieve this goal.”

EnergySolutions President and CEO Ken Robuck said: “This is a unique opportunity for EnergySolutions to apply our decommissioning experience to the decommissioning efforts of the NS Savannah and we value our partnership with RSCS on this important project. We are confident as a team we will safely decommission the Savannah applying lessons learned from our experience at commercial reactor decommissioning projects while at the same time preserving this national treasure.”

NS Savannah was commissioned in 1956 under President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Programme and was originally constructed under a joint agreement between the US DOT Maritime Division and the Atomic Energy Agency. It is currently licensed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  It was powered by a 80MW reactor. The ship weighs 9570t with an overall length of 595 feet and was operated by a 60-person crew.

Decommissioning activities include safely removing the control rod drive system, pressuriser, reactor pressure vessel, neutron shield tank, steam generators, primary system piping, reactor vessel and all primary system components.  All of this material is considered low-level waste and will be transported for disposal at the EnergySolutions “Clive” disposal facility in Utah’s West Desert.

The  joint team will carefully perform the decommissioning to preserve the ship for future use as a museum.

Photo: NS Savannah the first commercial nuclear power cargo vessel, en route to the World’s Fair in Seattle in 1962 (Photo: US Government)

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