(Post was originally published on July 1, 1995. It was updated on April 2, 2011 to include information and videos that were not available in when it was first written. The title has also been revised to open up a new discussion – was the NS Savannah a failure or a successful demonstration of a technology whose time has not quite arrived?)
On Friday, March 23, 1962, the N.S. Savannah became the first nuclear merchant ship at sea. In 1972, after ten years of demonstrations and operations, she was laid up in an effort to reduce spending by the Maritime Administration.
In the lore of the nuclear industry, her early retirement proved that nuclear power was not a viable option for commercial shipping. Once again, Atomic Insights will discuss why we believe that the conventional wisdom is wrong.