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Nuclear navy, or nuclear powered navy consists of ships powered by relatively small onboard nuclear reactors known as naval reactors. The concept was revolutionary for naval warfare when first proposed, as it meant that these vessels did not need to stop for fuel like their conventional counterparts, being limited only by crew endurance and supplies.

Contents

Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers

The United States Navy has by far the most nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, with 11 in service. France's latest aircraft carrier, the FS Charles de Gaulle, is nuclear powered. The United Kingdom rejected nuclear power early in the development of its Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers on cost grounds.[1] As currently envisaged, France's new aircraft carrier would also be conventionally powered.

Nuclear-powered submarines

The United States Navy operates the largest fleet of nuclear submarines.[2] Only the United States Navy, the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, and France's Marine Nationale field an all-nuclear submarine force. By 1989, there were over 400 nuclear-powered submarines operational or being built[3]. Some 250 of these submarines have now been scrapped and some on order cancelled, due to weapons reduction programs. Russia and the United States had over one hundred each, with the United Kingdom and France fewer than twenty each and China six. The Indian Navy launched their first indigenous Arihant class nuclear-powered submarines on July 26, 2009.[4] India is also reported to be leasing two additional nuclear submarines from Russia.

Nuclear-powered submarines can stay submerged for up to 400 days if the vessel is fully loaded.

Other nuclear-powered vessels

The United States no longer has nuclear cruisers, but they are still in use by Russia, the largest of which are the Kirov-class battlecruisers. Russia also has eight nuclear icebreakers in service or under construction.

The United States Navy

The U.S. Navy has accumulated over 5,400 "reactor years" of accident-free experience, and operates more than 80 nuclear-powered ships.[5]

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Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, (1900–1986), of the United States Navy, known as "father of the nuclear navy" [6] [7] [8] was an electrical engineer by training, and was the primary architect who implemented this daring concept, and believed that it was the natural next phase for the way military vessels could be propelled and powered. The challenge was to reduce the size of a nuclear reactor to fit onboard a ship or submarine, as well as to encase it sufficiently so that radiation hazards would not be a safety concern.

Soon after World War II, Rickover was assigned to the Bureau of Ships in September 1947 and received training in nuclear power at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In February 1949 he received an assignment to the Division of Reactor Development, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and then assumed control of the United States Navy's effort as Director of the Naval Reactors Branch in the Bureau of Ships. This dual role allowed him to lead the efforts to develop the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN 571), which was launched in 1954. As Vice Admiral, from 1958, for three decades Rickover exercised tight control over the ships, technology, and personnel of the nuclear navy, even interviewing every prospective officer for new nuclear powered navy vessels.

Philip Abelson

Leading nuclear physicist Philip Abelson (1913–2004) turned his attention under the guidance of Ross Gunn to applying nuclear power to naval propulsion. Their early efforts at Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) provided an early glimpse at what was to become the nuclear Navy.

United States Naval reactors

At the present time, many important vessels in the United States Navy are powered by United States naval reactors. All submarines and aircraft carriers are nuclear powered. Several cruisers were nuclear powered but these have all been retired. [9]

United States naval reactors are given three-character designations consisting of a letter representing the ship type the reactor is designed for, a consecutive generation number, and a letter indicating the reactor's designer. The ship types are "A" for aircraft carrier, "C" for cruiser, "D" for destroyer, and "S" for submarine. The designers are "W" for Westinghouse, "G" for General Electric, "C" for Combustion Engineering, and "B" for Bechtel. Examples are S5W, D1G, A4W, and D2W.

Most information concerning United States naval reactors is not secret—see Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information.

See also

References

  1. ^ Morrocco, John. "U.K. Launches Future Aircraft Carrier Studies" Aviation. Week and Space Technology. The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1999-02-01. Retrieved on 2007-07-28.
  2. ^ Bellona Environmental Foundation web site, Nuclear Naval Vessels web page, accessed 22 October 2006.
  3. ^ J. K. Shultis, R. E. Faw, Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Marcel Dekker, 2002, p. 340.
  4. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/26/india.nuclear.submarine/index.html
  5. ^ Statement of Admiral F. L. "Skip" Bowman, U.S. Navy Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program before the House Committee on Science 29 October 2003.
  6. ^ Jeffries, John (2001). Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-8232-2110-5.  , p.162: 'Admiral Rickover', said Powell, '"father of the atomic submarine", is a a great naval officer... It is not equally clear that he is a careful and thorough student of American education.'"
  7. ^ "Submarine Range Called Unlimited; Rickover Says Atomic Craft Can Cruise Under Ice To North Pole and Beyond", The New York Times, 6 December 1957, p.33: "The admiral, who is often called the 'Father of the Atomic Submarine'..."
  8. ^ Galantin, I. J. (1997). Submarine Admiral: From Battlewagons to Ballistic Missiles. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06675-8.  ,p. 217: "Chet Holifield... member of the JCAE... said 'Of all the men I dealt with in public service, at least one will go down in history: Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy.'
  9. ^ Federation of American Scientists, Military Analysis web site, accessed 22 October 2006.

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