How Many Nuclear Surface Ships Does the US Have?

Currently, the United States does not have any nuclear cruisers. Russia, however, has four Kirov-class battlecruisers, with one active and three on standby. Additionally, the command ship SSV-33 Ural, based on the Kirov class, is also in place. Nuclear energy is particularly suitable for ships that need to be at sea for extended periods without refueling or for powerful underwater propulsion.

At present, more than 150 ships are powered by small nuclear reactors. The United States Navy operates around 100 nuclear ships, with most of them being submarines. However, they range in type from icebreakers to aircraft carriers. The Ticonderoga crew could receive training faster and cheaper since they did not need to undergo nuclear training.

In the future, restrictions on the use of fossil fuels in transportation may cause marine nuclear propulsion to become more widespread. Admiral Rickover knew that to ensure that the Great Navy and the United States continued to adopt nuclear energy at sea, ships had to be extremely reliable and safe. Dismantling nuclear-powered submarines has become an important task for both the United States and Russia. This cycle begins in uranium mines and eventually results in spent nuclear fuel, surplus plutonium, and materials that become contaminated during processing.

For use in shallow waters such as estuaries and rivers, two 18,260 deadweight Taymyry-class low-draft icebreakers with a 38 MW reactor were built in Finland and then equipped with its nuclear steam supply system in Russia. Bringing back nuclear power aboard smaller surface ships can free up space and weight needed for additional systems, supplies, or ammunition. In the 1970s, Westinghouse partnered with the Newport News shipyard to develop an Offshore Power Systems (OPS) concept with series production planned in Jacksonville, Florida. Other sources of 137C in the marine environment include the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident (UNSCEAR, 2000) and routine operations of nuclear power plants (as a component of low-level radioactive liquid effluents).

Its 310 MWt produces around 100 MWe and it has 57 2.15 m high fuel assemblies and integral steam generators (287°C), so the entire steam supply system is produced and shipped as a single reactor module. Due to changes in the ship's nomenclature during the period, it was a frigate when it was designed, a destroyer when it was launched but it would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired. Argentina's Bariloche Atomic Center is considering similar plans for a nuclear-powered TR-1700 submarine. The widest 33 m beam on the waterline will coincide with 70,000 ton ships for which they are designed to clear the way although some ships with reinforced hulls already use the North Sea Route.

Nuclear propulsion has proven to be technically and economically essential in the Russian Arctic where operating conditions are beyond the capacity of conventional icebreakers. The mission of the NNPTC is to train officers and enlisted students in science and engineering fundamental to the design, operation and maintenance of naval nuclear propulsion plants. Russia built 248 nuclear submarines and five surface naval vessels (plus nine icebreakers) powered by 468 reactors between 1950 and 2003 then operated about 60 nuclear naval ships.

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