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The U.S. Going Back to Nuclear Powered Surface Ships?

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posted on Mar, 9 2008 @ 09:04 PM
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Interesting article from my May 2008 Navy Sea Classics Magazine, since they have no website I typed out a portion of the article.



The fossil-fueled fleet will not long sail the world’s oceans. Routinely, a Naval task force must refuel its smaller ships (cruisers, destroyers and frigates) every 3-to 5-days. If they were nuclear powered, it would be every 25- t0 33-years! The time savings alone in refueling at sea would convince most ship captains of the wisdom of nuclear power at sea. The time is now ripe to begin weaning the United States Navy from oil fire propulsion because it is a rapidly declining and finite fuel. The US Congress has already put language in the 2008 budget for the military in the category of destroyers and cruisers must be nuclear powered in the future. The Senate has yet to agree to such a dramatic proposal, but when ships begin to crowd anchorages due to a lack of fuel, I am certain they will see the value of change. Currently the citizens of the United States are about to pay $20-25 billion in fuel costs to maintain its military in its current operational tempo. The Navy spends $5 billion annually to see that its ships rule the seas- just for the fuel alone.
The US Navy is no stranger to nuclear-powered surface combatants and there was even a commercial venture that built the Savannah, a nuclear-powered cargo ship. The Savannah was actually somewhat of a commercial failure, yet the warships were ahead of their time, and a match for any ships in their class. However, in 2007, with the exceptions of the US Navy’s nuclear attack (SSN); ballistic missile (SSBN; and guided missile (SSGN) submarines and its Nimitz/Enterprise (CVN-21) super carriers; there are no other nuclear powered warships in the American Navy.



Its makes sense to me, having to refuel every 30 years then every 4 days. Then you have to consider the desposing of the nuclear waste. Maybe not using all that oil would be a little better for the environment. Is nuclear power cheaper then fossil fuel? I would also think you would get some performance advantages going nuclear, but the turbine engines in some of our surface ships are pretty impressive. I know we have many military experts on ATS so I’m awaiting a little scholarly feedback.

[edit on 9-3-2008 by jojoKnowsBest]




posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 08:12 AM
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Keep in mind that a nuclear power ship can run at full speed at all time, whereas a conventional ship has to cruise. Conventional ships can actually have problems keeping up with nuclear powered-aircraft carriers.

Nuclear powered ships also don't need foreign imports of fuel.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 09:25 AM
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What are the cons of a nuclear powered ship versus a conventional ship?



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 09:29 AM
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Well, they're not easily repairable if something goes wrong.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 10:04 AM
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Originally posted by kaiheitain
Keep in mind that a nuclear power ship can run at full speed at all time, whereas a conventional ship has to cruise. Conventional ships can actually have problems keeping up with nuclear powered-aircraft carriers.

Nuclear powered ships also don't need foreign imports of fuel.


Good point, I think the most advanced non nuke surface ships we have use a combination of gas turbines and diesel, something like that, where they can run on one system for economy then they can kick in both systems if they need speed.

It kind of seems like a no brainier, I just don’t know how much more a nuke boat will coast over an oil burner and how long it will take for the money you save on fuel to offset the cost of going nuke if ever.

Would you need a bigger crew on a nuke boat, and what about training and certification? I would imagine it will take a little more skill to be an engineer on a nuke boat versus a conventional one.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 10:18 AM
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GlobalSecurity.org has a great writeup [external link] on the CGN(X) pros and cons. They find that for a large surface craft with a medium to high optempo, the breakeven cost for a barrel of oil needs to be in the $70 to $225 range.

Cons of the nuke boats are high initial cost, high maintenance costs, long leadtimes on design and construction versus gas turbines, high training cost for operators, long startup times and the public stigma of allowing nuke ships into harbors.

Pros are the high speed/power available, long periods on station without the need for oilers/refueling, massive amounts of electrical power available to the ship for equipment and less smoke/exhaust heat to spot the ship at long range.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 01:00 PM
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It kind of seems like a no brainier, I just don’t know how much more a nuke boat will coast over an oil burner and how long it will take for the money you save on fuel to offset the cost of going nuke if ever.

Would you need a bigger crew on a nuke boat, and what about training and certification? I would imagine it will take a little more skill to be an engineer on a nuke boat versus a conventional one.


JojoKnowsBest amnd others.

A bit more than half the cost of a boat or ship is used in the nuclear reactor/reactors. Very expensive. This type of equipment and tooling comes from very specialized industrys. It does not come from Auto Zone.
Also this cost is rising rapidly under todays economic pressures.
THe studys are indicating that nuclear is the way to go in lieu of projected fossil fuel costs. Amazing when you consider that not so long ago they were thinking that gas turbines were the way to go.

With todays automated circuits you would not necessarily need a bigger crew. What you need are highly trained specialists to man such an engineering station. You must train and certify them and then maintain them.

Oxillini has the basics down pretty much correct. THe Navy is thinking that long term the pros outweigh the cons.

THere has been alot of research in the last 50 years on Reactor design and management. Today reactors by proper management can be made to last on a ship much longer than in the early days ..without refueling. No one in the early days would have ever thought it was possible to not fuel for almost 50 years but that is the forecast on the new reactor designs. Even 40 years is a long time against the projected costs of fossil fuels.

Thanks,
Orangetom

[edit on 10-3-2008 by orangetom1999]



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 01:15 PM
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In a less concrete sense, one also has to consider that a nuke surface ship is likely a more desirable target to any enemy, regardless of that vessel's size. A nuclear ship sinking would be a PR boon to an enemy and must never be allowed to occur. So, now you have a nuke cruiser designed to escort and protect a nuke aircraft carrier. You still need a large contingency of conventional destroyers, right? Meanwhile, a parallel design for a conventionally powered cruiser is going on to fill the ballistic missile defense role?



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 02:33 PM
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Actually I believe the legislation signed mandates that all new surface vessels that are destroyers or larger be nuclear powered.

It should be noted that modern US destroyers are in a tonnage class that would actually be better described as a "light cruiser" - around 10,000 tons. And our current crop of Aegis cruisers (the Ticonderoga class) are actually built on a destroyer (Spruance) hull.

It appears CGN(X) will be closer to a traditional cruiser, in displacement and hull form. The last cruiser the US built on a traditional "cruiser hull" was CGN-9 Long Beach, launched in 1959, also the first of the nuclear cruisers.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 02:55 PM
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reply to post by xmotex
 


All cruisers and up in that Bill. They left destroyers alone. Depending upon how you read it, it also mandates electric propulsion. Just to spin up the battleship fanboys, they included a BB reference in there, too.



SEC. 1012

a) Integrated Nuclear Power Systems- It is the policy of the United States to construct the major combatant vessels of the strike forces of the United States Navy, including all new classes of such vessels, with integrated nuclear power systems.

(b) Requirement to Request Nuclear Vessels- If a request is submitted to Congress in the budget for a fiscal year for construction of a new class of major combatant vessel for the strike forces of the United States, the request shall be for such a vessel with an integrated nuclear power system, unless the Secretary of Defense submits with the request a notification to Congress that the inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system in such vessel is not in the national interest.

(c) Definitions- In this section:

(1) MAJOR COMBATANT VESSELS OF THE STRIKE FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY- The term `major combatant vessels of the strike forces of the United States Navy' means the following:

(A) Submarines.

(B) Aircraft carriers.

(C) Cruisers, battleships, or other large surface combatants whose primary mission includes protection of carrier strike groups, expeditionary strike groups, and vessels comprising a sea base.

(2) INTEGRATED NUCLEAR POWER SYSTEM- The term `integrated nuclear power system' means a ship engineering system that uses a naval nuclear reactor as its energy source and generates sufficient electric energy to provide power to the ship's electrical loads, including its combat systems and propulsion motors.



Mod Edit: Important: Using content from other websites on ATS. Please review this link

[edit on 12-3-2008 by GAOTU789]



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 03:00 PM
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Thanks for the correction, for some reason I thought it was destroyers and up.

The bit about electric is interesting and important as well - with directed energy weapons & railguns beginning to become practical, I think it's a good move.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 03:13 PM
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Originally posted by xmotex
Thanks for the correction, for some reason I thought it was destroyers and up.


You were right, Sen Taylor recently called upon expanding the DDG hull to accept a nuclear propulsion plant for future hulls. He also advocated buying way more of them than the Navy wants. All this at the cost of the DDX future purchases



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 03:48 PM
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reply to post by xmotex
 


Producing power for those is no problem with exisitng reactor plant technology. The obstacle is turning that electricity into forward motion for a vessel of this size and desired speed.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 03:51 PM
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reply to post by COOL HAND
 


By DDG, does he mean DDG-51 or DDG-1000 hulls? Either way, that's a tight fit.

EDIT: Just found this article [external link] on his idea. He wants to squeeze one A1B reactor into a DDG hullform? Seriously? CNO Admiral Roughead doesn't think it will fit, either and he's been through new construction of an Arleigh Burke.

[edit on 10-3-2008 by oxillini]



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 05:04 PM
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Well I believe the DDX's are already set to use the "electric ship" concept.

Electric motors for surface ships are not a new thing, most modern large cruise ships use electric motors in azipods rather than direct drive with propeller shafts - including the 76,000 ton 30 knot Queen Mary II.

Additionally they can be made quite quiet compared to direct-drive, an additional advantage for any ship engaging in ASW missions.

Also, a nuclear powered surface vessel in a Burke-sized hull is not that hard to imagine. Bainbridge (CGN-25) was 100 tons lighter than her CODOG powered Burke-class namesake (DDG-96) is.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 05:14 PM
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Originally posted by xmotex
Well I believe the DDX's are already set to use the "electric ship" concept.

They are.



Additionally they can be made quite quiet compared to direct-drive, an additional advantage for any ship engaging in ASW missions.

The jury is still out on that one.



Also, a nuclear powered surface vessel in a Burke-sized hull is not that hard to imagine. Bainbridge (CGN-25) was 100 tons lighter than her CODOG powered Burke-class namesake (DDG-96) is.


DDG-96 is not CODOG powered. She is strictly Gas Turbine.

Research, it can be a powerful thing.



posted on Mar, 10 2008 @ 05:17 PM
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DDG-96 is not CODOG powered. She is strictly Gas Turbine.


D'oh!

You are correct.

Not sure where I got that idea.



posted on Mar, 11 2008 @ 12:31 AM
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Originally posted by oxillini
In a less concrete sense, one also has to consider that a nuke surface ship is likely a more desirable target to any enemy, regardless of that vessel's size. A nuclear ship sinking would be a PR boon to an enemy and must never be allowed to occur. So, now you have a nuke cruiser designed to escort and protect a nuke aircraft carrier. You still need a large contingency of conventional destroyers, right? Meanwhile, a parallel design for a conventionally powered cruiser is going on to fill the ballistic missile defense role?


Oxillini,
YOu do know that the surrounding fleet ships and the doctrine is for the surface ships to run the screen for the carriers till they can get thier aircraft off the deck..correct?? In otherwords they are to take the hits for the carriers...till the aircraft can get off the deck. This was true even back in the days of nuclear cruisers. and also the Bainbridge. It was also the case in the days of the CGN nuclear cruisers.
While it is not usually admitted in public these surface ships in a crunch are considered expendable in order to protect the carriers. Nuclear or not.

By the way, I saw the hull of the Savannah some time last fall. THey move her around this harbor to spread the pier costs about town. I believe she is ported in the Idle fleet up in the James River on occasion. This ship has a distinctive apperence in the day of containerized cargo ships.

I also saw the Long Beach in for decomissioning here in Virginia. She left here looking very much different from whence she entered.

Anyone know precisely how many nuclear submarines the Soviets/Russians have lost over the years. For some reason 7 to nine seems to ring a bell. I know that we have lost two.
I wonder what the count is in the waters close to those boats on the bottom of Neptune's Realm.

Just some random thoughts,
Orangetom



posted on Mar, 11 2008 @ 10:25 AM
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reply to post by xmotex
 


The "BrainDamage" DLGN/CGN-25 was a nightmare to work on from everyone I know who worked on her. Did they get two reactors on her, yes. Was it a good layout? Not from what many have said. Regardless, the question on the DDG-51 isn't whether a reactor plant (or two) would fit, it's whether the Gerlad R Ford's reactor would fit. I say it will not and even in the slim chance it did, the ship could never use much of that power. It's a waste. It's a V-10 in a VW. Both are known quantities, but that doesn't automatically mean you can use them together.

As for electric drive, I'm sure it can be done, but I question why. Senator Taylor's argument is that using existing designs allows for a faster ship acquisition schedule. Well, throwing an electric drive in their that no one is building right now can't do anything to help speed that acquisition cycle. Also, how much quieter is it?



posted on Mar, 11 2008 @ 08:23 PM
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Originally posted by xmotex
It appears CGN(X) will be closer to a traditional cruiser, in displacement and hull form. The last cruiser the US built on a traditional "cruiser hull" was CGN-9 Long Beach, launched in 1959, also the first of the nuclear cruisers.


They discussed the Long Beach a little in the Sea Classics article; it’s a pretty funky looking ship. Now it sits about 20 miles from me at the Bremerton Ship Yards, they have a nuclear recycling program there. The Russians had a go with nuke powered battle cruisers, the Kirov-class. I guess they were all failures.

This is an excerpt about the Long Beach from Sea Classics, April 08.


Sticker shock on these huge ships was overwhelmed by the arguments in favor of nuclear power that enamored the surface Navy, it was the guided missile. The 17,525-ton full load Long Beach was armed with two twin Terrier missile launchers forward; a Talos missile launcher aft; a single Regulus missile amidships; six 21-in torpedo tubes; and ASROC for ASW. Soon after the Long Beach put to sea, it was noticed that a small missile or torpedo boat could sink the cruiser because the Long Beach had no guns to ward off small craft. Accordingly, two WWII era 5-in/.38-cal guns were added amidships to deal with small craft. As the ship aged, its armament was improved to include 20mm Phalanx CIWS; two quad Harpoon anti-ship missile batteries and more modern SAM batteries. The Regulus missile was quickly removed as it was obsolete when installed aboard the cruiser. However, the march of Technology was too fast for the Long Beach, and as its systems were hard wired, there was little opportunity to incorporate AGEIS and other modern technological advances. She was decommissioned on 1 May 1995, and inactivated though the nuclear recycling program in Bremerton, Washington.


[edit on 11-3-2008 by jojoKnowsBest]




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