The Department of the Navy (Navy), with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as a cooperating agency, has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with alternatives for the disposal of the decommissioned, defueled ex-Enterprise, including its naval reactor plants.
USS Enterprise was commissioned in 1961 as the nation’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. After more than 50 years of service and one million miles safely steamed on nuclear power, the ship was decommissioned in 2017. USS Enterprise was constructed with eight naval reactor plants housed in rugged compartments inside the ship. As part of the decommissioning process, the nuclear fuel has been removed from the ship’s eight reactor plants. Ex-Enterprise is currently being stored pier-side at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.
The Proposed Action is to dispose of ex-Enterprise, including its defueled reactor plants. The Proposed Action would entail dismantling and recycling the non-radioactive remnant hull sections of ex-Enterprise at a government or authorized commercial facility in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws, and removing and packaging of ex-Enterprise reactor plant components for transportation and disposal as low-level radioactive waste to authorized radioactive waste disposal facilities.
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to reduce Navy inactive ship inventory, eliminate costs associated with maintaining the ship in a safe stowage condition, and dispose of legacy radiological and hazardous wastes in an environmentally responsible manner, while meeting the operational needs of the Navy. Dismantling is the only method approved for the disposition of nuclear-powered ships stricken from the Naval Vessel Register and is required to be accomplished in the United States or its territories in accordance with the statutory responsibilities of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
The Navy has identified new disposal alternatives that may be more cost-effective and better utilize available resources within Navy public shipyards. Therefore, the Navy prepared the Draft EIS/OEIS and evaluated the following alternatives.
This alternative involves the partial dismantlement and removal of non-radiological portions of ex-Enterprise at a commercial dismantlement facility. The remainder, including the defueled reactor plants, would be transported by heavy-lift ship to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility for recycling, construction of eight single reactor compartment packages, and shipment by barge to the Port of Benton near the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site, and via a multiple-wheel, high-capacity transporter to the DOE Hanford Site for disposal.
Sections of the Ex-Enterprise
Current transport route of defueled reactor compartment packages from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility to the U.S. Department of Energy Hanford Site near Richland, Washington, for disposal.
This alternative is the same as Alternative 1, except four dual reactor compartment packages would be constructed rather than eight single reactor compartment packages. The packages would be heavier and larger than reactor compartment packages currently transported to the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site under the existing Navy program.
Under this alternative, the Navy would contract with commercial industry to dismantle ex-Enterprise, including its defueled reactor plants, and dispose of the reactor plant components via several hundred shipments to authorized waste disposal sites. The Navy is evaluating three locations for commercial dismantlement: the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area, Virginia; Brownsville, Texas; and Mobile, Alabama.
The Navy has identified Alternative 3 – Commercial Dismantlement as its preferred alternative because it keeps the specially qualified and trained Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF) workforce focused on high-priority fleet maintenance work and the submarine inactivation and reactor compartment package work that are already part of the PSNS & IMF workload, provides cost benefits to the U.S. taxpayer, would be completed in shortest duration, and would not result in significant environmental impacts. The preferred alternative does not result in any decrease in workforce at PSNS & IMF.
Potential locations for complete dismantlement of ex-Enterprise and potential low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.
The Navy also evaluated the No Action Alternative, which involves waterborne storage of ex-Enterprise and periodic maintenance to ensure that storage continues in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
At the end of a U.S. Navy ship’s useful lifetime, it is removed from service or “decommissioned.” For nuclear-powered ships, the nuclear fuel is removed from the ship during the decommissioning process. Under an existing program for nuclear-powered submarines and cruisers, the defueled reactor compartments are removed during the dismantling of the ship and transported for disposal at the U.S. Department of Energy Hanford Site near Richland, Washington. The Navy complies with all applicable federal, state, and local regulatory requirements for the dismantling, packaging, transport, and disposal of naval nuclear reactor compartment packages.
The removal of the nuclear fuel from the decommissioned ex-Enterprise reactor plants has already taken place and is not part of the Proposed Action.
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF)
PSNS & IMF, established in 1891, is the Pacific Northwest's largest naval shore facility and one of Washington state's largest industrial installations.
PSNS & IMF has been safely disposing of naval submarine and cruiser reactor compartments since 1986. In 1990, the Navy authorized a program to recycle nuclear-powered ships at PSNS & IMF. This work involves inactivation, reactor compartment package disposal, and recycling of ships. PSNS & IMF pioneered an environmentally safe method of deactivating and recycling nuclear-powered ships. This type of work will continue as additional nuclear-powered classes of ships are decommissioned and require disposal.
Today, PSNS & IMF provides longer-term, full-service maintenance and decommissioning/recycling work on surface ships and submarines utilizing six drydocks and adjacent piers. As of October 2021, the Navy has disposed of 138 reactor compartment packages from defueled, decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines and cruisers at the Department of Energy Hanford Site in Washington state.
For More Information:
Visit the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility website.