The Arctic Ocean is one of the least known and least visited oceans in the world. But lately more adventure travelers are enjoying the sites and sounds of the North Pole in style and comfort thanks to nuclear powered icebreakers.
Work on nuclear marine propulsion began in the 1940's first by creating submarines. By 1962 the first nuclear powered cargo-passenger ship, the NS Savannah was launched. Built as a passenger-cargo showpiece under President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program, the Savannah demonstrated the peaceful use of nuclear propulsion and sparked the interest of other countries to build similar ships for efficient and reliable water travel.
Icebreakers quickly started to appear. In the late 50's they ensured safe passage of cargo ships crossing the artic circle covered in shifting icepack. Then in the 70's these vessels assisted scientific expeditions and continue to do so. In the late 80's the nuclear powered icebreakers joined the tourism industry providing adventure vacations to areas most tourists are unable to get to.
Today nuclear powered vessels make the North Pole an easier place to visit. They carry scientists and tourists alike. A trip to the North Pole on an icebreaker would provide you with a chance to see an area few have ever seen in comfort and style. These trips are not cheap costing roughly $25,000 a person but to go where few have been is a once in a lifetime experience.
These massive ships are designed to ride up on the frozen ocean waters using its sheer weight to smash through the frozen layers of ice that exist year-round. Made with a strong steel hull and a special skin to withstand the frigid water temperatures, these ships can charge through ice that's as thick as seven feet thick, keeping travelers safe, sound, and warm.
Nuclear power is preferred because it allows these vessels to be out at sea for long periods of time only having to refuel once every four years. The amount of room this technology takes up on board is also a benefit because many ships must carry their own diesel fuel aboard, losing valuable cargo space thus making voyages less cost efficient.
The combined passenger-cargo ship is currently in a Newport News pier in Virginia where it is expected to be restored and eventually become part of a museum exhibit.
The N.S. Savannah demonstrated the technical use of nuclear propulsions for merchant ships and was not expected to be economically feasible.
It made several trips around the country and abroad and in the 1971 the ship was retired and later declared a National Historic Landmark.
The Savannah sparked the interest of other countries. Today there are over 150 ships powered by nuclear propulsion.
Nuclear propulsion is also used for:
. Space Technology
For information about more nuclear science and technology applications, check out AboutNuclear.org.
Last updated July 10, 2012, 4:27pm CDT.