Design Con 2015

1st nuclear-powered merchant ship docks, August 22, 1962

-August 22, 2014

On this day in tech history, the world's first nuclear-powered merchant ship, the NS Savannah, landed in Savannah, GA, completing its maiden voyage from Yorktown, VA.

Part of President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program to demonstrate the peaceful and positive use of nuclear power, Savannah was designed, constructed, and operated by the Maritime Administration, which provided the ship, and the Atomic Energy Commission, which contributed the reactor and nuclear systems.

The ship was designed to impress with accommodations for 60 passengers, 30 staterooms, a dining room, a swimming pool, a library, and a lounge that could serve as a cinema. The galley featured an early-generation microwave oven that wasn't yet common in American homes. The bottom half of the vessel was encased in concrete while the top half was enclosed in steel and redwood timber.

A gallery provided passengers an unrestricted view of the machinery compartment and glass-enclosed control room. The shielding and containment vessel housed the pressurized water reactor and all other radioactive components.



Designed by George Sharp Inc, and built by the New York Shipbuilding Corp in Camden, NJ, Savannah featured a Babcock and Wilcox nuclear propulsion system, whose heat produced steam that drove two steam-turbine engines and a propeller shaft.

The 595 feet long, 78 feet wide ship had a cargo capacity of over 8,000 tons, normal cruising speed of 21 knots, and could travel over 300,000 miles in 3 1/2 years on one loading of fuel, 682,000 enriched uranium pellets.



The ship was named after the SS Savannah that was the first to cross the Atlantic using steam power in 1819, and was the only NS built in America.

At a cost over $46 million, including the $28-million nuclear propulsion system, Savannah proved too expensive to run. It was operated in experimental and commercial demonstration throughout the 1960s and removed from service in 1970. The National Historic Landmark is docked in Baltimore, and has been partially decommissioned, but is still regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Also see:

Also on this day in tech history
:  
On August 22, 1940, analog great Bob Pease was born, starting a life that would contribute tremendous amounts to engineering.

For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

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