The Ship/Submarine Recycling Program (SRP) is the process the United States Navy uses to dispose of decommissioned nuclear vessels. SRP takes place only at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) in Bremerton, Washington, but the preparations can begin elsewhere.
Before SRP can begin, the ship or submarine must have her nuclear fuel removed. Defueling usually coincides with decommissioning. Prior to that event, the vessel is referred to as "USS Name," but afterward the "USS" is dropped and it is referred to as "ex-Name." Defueling of submarines is carried out at five ship repair facilities on the West Coast, and the hulks are then towed to PSNS. Reusable equipment is removed at the same time as the fuel.
Spent nuclear fuel is shipped by rail to the Naval Reactor Facility in the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), located 67 kilometers (42 miles) northwest of Idaho Falls, Idaho, where it is stored. The fuel is not reprocessed.
At PSNS the SRP proper begins. A submarine is cut into three or four pieces: the aft section, the reactor compartment, the missile compartment if one exists, and the forward section. Missile compartments are dismantled according to the provisions of the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty. Reactor compartments are sealed at both ends and shipped by barge and multiple-wheel high-capacity trailers to the Department of Energy's Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state where they are slated to be buried. Related photographs:
See photo here of 71 such reactor compartments in open-air storage.
Demonstrating the rapid growth in submarine recycling, see photo here showing 114 reactor compartments in open-air storage.
The burial trenches have been evaluated to be secure for at least 600 years before the first pinhole penetration of some lead containment areas of the reactor compartment packages occurs, and several thousand years before leakage becomes possible.
Until 1991, the forward and aft sections of the submarines were rejoined and placed in floating storage. Various proposals for disposal of those hulks were considered, including sinking them at sea, but none were economically practical. All required removal of the numerous polychlorinated biphenyl products (PCBs) on board, which are considered hazardous materials by the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Coast Guard. In order to reduce the costs, the remaining submarine sections are recycled, returning reusable materials to production. In the process of submarine recycling, all hazardous and toxic wastes are identified and removed, reusable equipment is removed and put into inventory. Scrap metals and all other materials are sold to private companies or reused. The overall process is not profitable, but does provide some cost relief. Disposal of submarines by the SRP costs the US$25-50 million per submarine.
By the end of 2005, 195 nuclear submarines had been ordered or built in the US (including the NR-1 Deep Submergence Craft and Virginia, but none of the later Virginias). The last of the regular Sturgeon attack boats, L. Mendel Rivers was decommissioned in 2001, and Parche, a highly-modified Sturgeon, was decommissioned in 2004. The last of the "41 for Freedom", Kamehameha was decommissioned in 2002. Decommissioning of the Los Angeles boats began in 1995 with the Baton Rouge. Additionally, a handful of nuclear powered cruisers have entered the program, and their dismantlement is ongoing. Note that the United States operates nuclear powered aircraft carriers, but as of 2007 no nuclear powered carrier has been decommissioned. Hulks waiting or already processed by the recycling program include:
Note that some of these submarines (the George Washington class) were fleet ballistic missile boats for the vast majority of their careers. However, they were briefly converted to SSNs before decommissioning and arrival at PSNS, and so are listed under that designation here.
† A dagger after a completion date indicates that portions of the hulk were preserved as memorials. See the individual articles for details.
‡ Date given for ex-Parche is official date used to secure FY2004 funding; work did not begin until 19 October.
Ballistic Missile Submarines
Note that some of these submarines (the Lafayette class) were fleet ballistic missile boats for the vast majority of their careers. However, they were converted to SSNs for use as moored training platforms and are not currently scheduled for recycling.
Ship Name (Hull Number)
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-598)
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-599)
ex-Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600)
24 March 1995
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-601)
ex-Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602)
5 May 1994
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-608)
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-609)
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-610)
See Attack Submarines - (SSBN/SSN-611)
1 March 1991
25 February 1992
ex-Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617)
23 February 1993
28 February 1994
ex-Thomas Jefferson (SSBN-618)
1 October 1996
6 March 1998
ex-Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619)
30 August 1999
ex-John Adams (SSBN-620)
12 February 1996
ex-James Monroe (SSBN-622)
10 January 1995
ex-Nathan Hale (SSBN-623)
2 October 1991
5 April 1995
ex-Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624)
26 September 1997
27 October 1998
ex-Henry Clay (SSBN-625)
30 September 1997
ex-Daniel Webster (MTS-626)
refit (training vessel)
ex-James Madison (SSBN-627)
24 October 1997
15 February 1993
1 April 1994
ex-Daniel Boone (SSBN-629)
4 November 1994
ex-John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630)
18 November 1994
ex-Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631)
23 October 1993
ex-Von Steuben (SSBN-632)
1 October 2000
30 October 2001
ex-Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)
21 October 1994
ex-Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634)
13 October 1995
ex-Sam Rayburn (MTS-635)
refit (training vessel)
ex-Nathanael Greene (SSBN-636)
1 September 1998
20 October 2000
ex-Benjamin Franklin (SSBN-640)
21 August 1995
ex-Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641)
1 October 1994
1 December 1995
ex-George Bancroft (SSBN-643)
30 March 1998
ex-Lewis and Clark (SSBN-644)
1 October 1995
23 September 1996
ex-George C. Marshall (SSBN-654)
28 February 1994
ex-Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655)
12 August 1994
ex-George Washington Carver (SSBN-656)
21 March 1994
ex-Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657)
1 September 1995
ex-Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658)
1 October 1994
22 December 1995
ex-Will Rogers (SSBN-659)
12 April 1993
12 August 1994
Because the program is underway, this list is almost certainly incomplete.
Note for ships marked with refit:
Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) was converted into a training platform — Moored Training Ship (MTS-635). Sam Rayburn arrived for conversion on 1 February 1986, and on 29 July 1989 the first Moored Training Ship achieved initial criticality. Modifications included special mooring arrangements including a mechanism to absorb power generated by the main propulsion shaft. Daniel Webster (SSBN-626) was converted to the second Moored Training Ship (MTS-2 / MTS-626) in 1993. The Moored Training Ship Site is located at Naval Weapons Station Charleston in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Sam Rayburn is scheduled to operate as an MTS until 2014 while undergoing shipyard availabilities at four year intervals.
^ abcdefghijk Morison, Samuel Loring (December 2006). "U.S. Naval Battle Force Changes". Proceedings of the Naval Institute132 (12): 59–60. ISSN 0041-798X. Retrieved on 2006-12-07.
^ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzaaabacad Morison, Samuel Loring (May 2007). "U.S. Naval Battle Force Changes". Proceedings of the Naval Institute133 (5): 111. ISSN 0041-798X. Retrieved on 2007-05-28.
Life Cycle of a Navy Ship
Ship naming and launching | Ship commissioning | Ship decommissioning
Reserve fleet | Scrapping | Recycling | Scuttling or Weapons testing | Museum ship