What happened to the NS Savannah?

One of the more frequent inquiries I have received during my years operating Atomic Insights is “What happened to the NS (nuclear ship) Savannah?”. I just learned about a recently completed documentary film by Thomas Michael Conner, a former member of the ship’s crew, that is designed to answer that question in detail using sea stories from the men who were there.

Once Upon A Nuclear Ship Trailer from Tom Conner on Vimeo.

Tom Conner has started a fund raising campaign on Indiegogo that will enable him to promote his work and spread the information about the successful demonstration that nuclear energy can work effectively in a transportation application. As we all probably know by now, there was no follow through after the demonstration period ended, and the NS Savannah remains the only non Navy nuclear ship that the US ever built.

The decision to decommission Savannah and failure to follow through occurred at a completely different time in our history. Oil cost less than $3.00 per barrel, about 1/40th of today’s world price. No one cared about emissions from ship smokestacks then, now ship owners are seeing regulations that are tight enough to make them consider investing in special tanks and very expensive shore based infrastructure so that they can propel their ships with liquified natural gas. Ship owners, who only make money by moving cargo from point A to point B are frequently telling their master’s to purposely reduce productivity and steam at slow speeds because doubling speed on a ship means burning 8 times as much fuel per hour – 4 times as much per mile traveled.

There are many reasons to reconsider what the NS Savannah experience means in today’s world. I highly recommend that you support Tom’s film and promotional effort. He has done the hard work already by gathering the material and producing the film, now all he needs is money to help spread the word. The amounts required are rather trivial and should be easy to accumulate from all of the professionals and potential professionals whose lives could be positively impacted by starting a whole new industry of building and operating nuclear powered commercial ships at sea.

Hat tip to Will Davis and ANS Nuclear Cafe. I learned about this documentary effort from Will’s post titled Nuclear Film Extravaganza

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2 Responses to “What happened to the NS Savannah?”

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  1. seth says:

    Maybe shippers should buy a couple of those Borei class soviet nuke subs – a steal at $890M and use them to tow barges.

    Couple of them Soviet ice breakers without the strengthened hulls would be good to.

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      The Borei-class subs have a surfaced speed of only 15 kt, so they might be underpowered for this job.  I suspect the pump-jet propulsion would have low Froude efficiency in towing service.

      What I can find on the OK-650 is that it’s rated at 200 MW(th), and 43,000 shp from its turbine.  Compared to the Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96 series of direct-drive diesel engines, this is on the small side.