NRC to discuss decommissioning of historic NS Savannah

April 16, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News
The NS Savannah. (Photo: NS Savannah Association)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting on May 8 to discuss the license termination process for the retired nuclear-powered merchant ship, the NS Savannah. During the meeting, NRC staff will discuss the license termination process and receive public comments on the remaining cleanup activities described in the license termination plan for the historic ship, which may see a second life as a floating museum.

The meeting is scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (EDT) onboard the Savannah, which is docked at Pier 13, Canton Marine Terminal, at 4601 Newgate Ave. in Baltimore. Md. Members of the public may participate in person, online via Microsoft Teams, or by phone. Details on the meeting can be found here.

The plan: The Maritime Administration (MARAD) of the Department of Transportation, which owns and operates the Savannah, submitted its license termination plan for the ship in October 2023. The NRC staff accepted the plan and a related license amendment request for formal review in December 2023.

The plan addresses remaining remediation activities and final radiological surveys or scans to ensure that any residual radioactivity will be within allowable limits of NRC regulations.

The decommissioning: As the first and only nuclear powered commercial vessel, the Savannah is a registered National Historic Landmark. And unlike a land-based nuclear power plant, the ship is waterborne, and mobile, and it is of historic significance, presenting unique aspects for decommissioning.

MARAD plans to decommission the ship in a manner that minimizes any physical impacts on its structure. In October 2023, MARAD published a notice of availability and request for information in the Federal Register to determine interest from parties that may wish to acquire the ship for preservation.

To prepare the Savannah for preservation, MARAD made numerous modifications and improvements to the ship during the decommissioning process. This includes the addition of climate controls, sanitary spaces, shore power, mechanical systems, mooring and access equipment, alarm and monitoring systems, restored public spaces, office spaces, and administrative infrastructure.

The history: Built in 1959, the Savannah served as a signature element of President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program. While in service, the ship demonstrated the peaceful use of atomic power and explored the feasibility of nuclear-powered merchant vessels.

Savannah was retired from active service in 1970, and its fuel was removed the following year. The ship was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and in 1991 it began serving as an exhibition of the nuclear, maritime, transportation, and political heritages of the United States.

The Savannah’s reactor was removed in 2022 and transported to a nuclear waste disposal facility.

Submitting comments: Written comments on the license termination plan may be submitted through the federal rulemaking website (Docket ID NRC-2024-0060), or by mail to Office of Administration, TWFN-7-A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001, Attention: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff. The deadline for filing comments is June 3.

More information about the decommissioning of the Savannah is available on the NRC website.

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