Navy could dismantle former nuclear-powered aircraft carrier company in commercial yard

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) makes its final voyage to Newport News Shipbuilding. US Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries

The Navy is seeking to contract with a commercial dismantling facility to dispose of the service’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier due to a heavy workload in the Puget Sound service yard.

Former U.S.S. Company (CVN-65) was decommissioned in 2012 and decommissioned in 2017. It is currently stored at HII Newport News Shipbuilding. According to a draft National Environmental Law policy report, no shipyard would begin dismantling until 2025.

The Navy listed several options for dismantling the carrier, but recommended one that allowed a commercial yard to carry out the work, according to the draft plan, first reported by The Kitsap Sun. This option would cost between $554 million and $696 million and take five years, compared to the other two alternatives which would take 15 years and cost between $1.102 billion and $1.358 billion, according to the draft report.

The Marine Service also considered a no-action alternative, which would see the Navy Store Company long term.

Backlog of Navy nuclear submarines and half of the former USS Long Beach (CGN-9) awaiting dismantling at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington in 2018 Google Image

In justifying the option of doing a commercial dismantling, as opposed to a combined effort between a commercial facility and the Navy, the Marine Service wrote that the shipyard and Puget Sound Intermediate Maintenance Facility have a workload increasing due to a “higher fleet operational tempo and capacity shortages across all Navy public shipyards,” according to the draft. It has already exceeded its capacity between ongoing and planned projects.

By using a commercial shipyard, the Navy can focus Puget Sound work on active maintenance of the fleet, according to the project.

“The Navy’s public shipyard workforce has come under tremendous pressure to perform its primary mission of keeping the fleet operational,” according to the draft. “Commercial decommissioning of the ex-Enterprise would allow the Navy to keep the specially trained and skilled workforce of the PSNS and IMF focused on high-priority fleet maintenance work and submarine inactivations. sailors who are already part of the PSNS and IMF workload.”

The Draft of 428 pages examines the environmental effects of dismantling Company, which was built with eight nuclear reactors. The vessel has already been stripped of fuel, with the fuel stored on the property of the Department of Energy Idaho National Laboratory.

Under preferred option, Company would be towed to a commercial facility in Brownsville, TX, Mobile, Alabama, or Hampton Roads, VA. The commercial facility would then dismantle the vessel.

A shipbreaking company is not named in the draft, and it’s possible the Navy may choose to send the ship to Hampton Roads, which is closer to its current resting place.

Whichever shipbreaking facility wins the Navy’s contract will dismantle the eight unloaded reactors and package them in several hundred small containers, according to the project.

Low-level radioactive waste will then go to one of three facilities for recycling or disposal in accordance with all applicable laws. The three facilities under consideration are Waste Control Specialists, LLC., in Andrews, Texas, EnergySolutions in Clive, Utah, or the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site in Aiken, SC.

If the Navy used Puget Sound to dismantle Companyit could not start before at least 2030, according to the project.

No decision has been made and public comment on the project will be accepted until October 3rd. There will also be two public hearings in September, one on September 20 and one on September 22.

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