U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project
This project was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940
edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages are only occassionally updated and should be considered historical.
Dismantling Nuclear Submarines
More than twenty attack and ballistic missile submarines awaiting dismantlement at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state, March 13, 1996.
More than 31 submarines were dismantled between 1986 and 1992. By 2000, the Navy plans to have dismantled 100 submarines. At the end of 1997, there were 80 operational attack submarines (SSNs) and 20 operational ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). All U.S. submarines are nuclear-powered (one reactor per submarine).
As part of the dismantlement process, submarines are brought into drydock, where they are defueled, their reactor components are removed, and all usable equipment and materials are removed and recycled. All weapons are removed before this stage. This 1993 photograph taken at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington shows two ballistic missile submarines, each of which carried sixteen Poseidon C-3 ballistic missiles.
A defueled reactor compartment (right) is shown separated from the rest of the submarine. Once separated, special steel bulkheads are attached to both ends of the compartment and welded into place. After their radioactive fuel is removed, the compartments are classified as low level waste
Once sealed off, the reactor compartments are shipped by barge out of Puget Sound, down the coast and along the Columbia River to the port of Benton, south of the Hanford Reservation. There the compartments are transferred to special multiwheeled high-load trailers for transport to Trench 94 in the Hanford Reservation's 218-E-12B burial ground (near the center of the site), raised onto support columns, and welded into place. In this November 1994 photograph of Trench 94, forty-three reactor compartments are visible and foundations are being prepared for a forty-fourth. Once full, the trench will be filled with dirt and buried. The compartments are expected to retain their integrity for more than 600 years.
Credit: Ralph Wasmer, U.S. Navy