Naval Reactors Facility Turns Over Aircraft Carrier Prototype for Demolition

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – The Naval Reactors Facility turned over the aircraft carrier first design by Westinghouse reactor prototype (A1W) to the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management for demolition in a ceremony Nov. 2.

An estimated 150 participants attended the A1W prototype turnover ceremony, including the local Mayors of Idaho Falls and Arco, as well as Congressional staff members and members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, including Lee Juan Tyler, Chairman, Fort Hall Business Council. The event centered around a symbolic plaque exchange, signifying the handover of responsibilities from the Naval Reactors Facility to the Department of Energy Office Idaho Cleanup Project. The A1W prototype was the world’s first surface-ship nuclear reactor prototype and was used in the development of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and the nuclear-powered cruiser, USS Long Beach (CGN 9).

The Naval Reactors Facility is under the cognizance of Naval Reactors, a joint U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of Energy organization. Naval Reactors is responsible for all aspects of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear propulsion, including research, design, construction, testing, operation, maintenance, and ultimate disposition of naval nuclear propulsion plants.
In 2019, Naval Reactors entered into an agreement with the Office of Environmental Management to carry out the demolition of the A1W facility and other deactivation and decommissioning efforts, including two additional prototypes at NRF. In 2022, Naval Reactors turned over the S1W prototype to Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management and disposal is ongoing. The D&D work is conducted under the authority of CERCLA Non Time Critical Removal Actions. As such, an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis was completed to analyze and determine the preferred end-states for the prototype. DOE reviewed the analysis with the Fort Hall Business Council in a Government to Government Consultation, and also made the analysis available for public review and comment prior to a DOE decision issued in February 2023.

“The partnership with the Office of Environmental Management is critical to our ability to effectively decommission and demolish facilities that have reached their end of life,” said Gil Pratt, Manager of the Idaho Branch Office of Naval Reactors. “Properly decommissioning these facilities makes room for future needs and infrastructure improvements in order to meet mission requirements.”

Construction for A1W originally began in 1956 and the prototype was built in a steel hull that simulated the engine room of an aircraft carrier. A1W featured two reactors, which achieved criticality in 1958 and 1959, respectively. The prototype was used for training U.S. Navy nuclear operators. Along with two other prototypes at NRF, nearly 40,000 Sailors, officers and civilians completed training between 1953 and 1995.

“Our history in Idaho with the Naval Reactors Facility dates back to the very start of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program,” said Adm. Frank Caldwell, Director of Naval Reactors. “The Naval Reactors Facility has and continues to play an integral role in supporting our nuclear fleet.”
As part of disposing of these facilities, Naval Reactors is working closely with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office and Idaho Public Television to document and preserve this important part of our history in the form of a documentary that will eventually air on Idaho Public Television titled Idaho Experience: Idaho’s Nuclear Navy. The documentary is scheduled to air Dec. 3.

Naval Reactors, with support from the State Historic Preservation Office and the City of Idaho Falls, will be hosting the premier showing of Idaho Experience: Idaho’s Nuclear Navy Nov. 30 at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls. For more information and tickets, please visit: https://www.idahofallsarts.org/calendar/s1w-documentary/.

Over the last 75 years, Naval Reactors has operated 273 reactor plants, taken 562 reactor cores critical including 33 different designs, and steamed more than 171 million miles with over 7,500 reactor years of safe operations. The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and the Navy’s nuclear-powered warships have demonstrated clear superiority in defending the United States – from the Cold War to today’s unconventional threats and strategic competition – Naval Reactors ensures the American Sailor and the nuclear-fleet are ready to fight and win the nation’s wars.

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