02 August 2011

USA Ship-Submarine Recycling Program (SRP):

Ship/Submarine Recycling Program (SRP) is the process the United States Navy uses to dispose of decommissioned nuclear vessels.

SRP takes place only at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) in Bremerton, Washington, but the preparations can begin elsewhere.

Before SRP can begin, the ship or submarine must have her nuclear fuel removed. Defueling usually coincides with decommissioning. Prior to that event, the vessel is referred to as "USS Name," but afterward the "USS" is dropped and it is referred to as "ex-Name."

Defueling of submarines is carried out at 5 ship repair facilities on the West Coast, and the hulks are then towed to PSNS. Reusable equipment is removed at the same time as the fuel.

Spent nuclear fuel is shipped by rail to the Naval Reactor Facility in the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), located 42 miles (67 km) northwest of Idaho Falls, Idaho, where it is stored. The fuel is then reprocessed.

At PSNS the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard proper begins.

A submarine is cut into three or four pieces:
1)    the aft section,
2)    the reactor compartment,
3)    the missile compartment (if one exists), and
4)    the forward section.

Missile compartments are dismantled according to the provisions of the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty.

Reactor compartments are sealed at both ends and shipped by barge and multiple-wheel high-capacity trailers to the Department of Energy's Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State where they are slated to be buried. A large number of reactor compartments are stored in the open awaiting deconstruction. The burial trenches have been evaluated to be secure for at least 600 years before the first pinhole penetration of some lead containment areas of the reactor compartment packages occurs, and several thousand years before leakage becomes possible.

Until 1991, the forward and aft sections of the submarines were rejoined and placed in floating storage. Various proposals for disposal of those hulks were considered, including sinking them at sea, but none were economically practical. All required removal of the numerous polychlorinated biphenyl products (PCBs) on board, which are considered hazardous materials by the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Coast Guard. Since then, and to help reduce costs, the remaining submarine sections are recycled, returning reusable materials to production. In the process of submarine recycling, all hazardous and toxic wastes are identified and removed; reusable equipment is removed and put into inventory. Scrap metals and all other materials are sold to private companies or reused. The overall process is not profitable, but does provide some cost relief. Disposal of submarines by the SRP costs the US$25-50 million per submarine.

By the end of 2005, 195 nuclear submarines had been ordered or built in the US (including the NR-1 Deep Submergence Craft and Virginia, but none of the later Virginias).

The last of the regular Sturgeon attack boats, L. Mendel Rivers was decommissioned in 2001, and Parche, a highly-modified Sturgeon, was decommissioned in 2004.

The last of the initial "41 for Freedom" Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines, Kamehameha, was decommissioned in 2002. Decommissioning of the Los Angeles boats began in 1995 with Baton Rouge.

Additionally, a handful of nuclear powered cruisers have entered the program, and their dismantling is ongoing. The United States operates nuclear powered aircraft carriers, but as of 2008 no nuclear powered carrier has been decommissioned. The first aircraft carrier due for decommissioning that would enter the SRP is planned to be Enterprise, intended for withdrawal in 2013.

Source: Wikipedia.

USS Virginia (CGN-38) in dry dock for nuclear core removal.jpg

A bow on view of the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS VIRGINIA (CGN-38) in a dry dock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard undergoing deactivation. The superstructure has been removed and containment structures placed over the hull so the shipyard can remove the ship's nuclear core.

Location: Elizabeth River, Norfolk, Virginia (VA). USA.

Source: Wikipedia. Photo taken by: DON S. MONTGOMERY, USN. 26 August 1994

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