The US Government Accountability Office has published a review of the US Navy’s dismantlement and disposal process for the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – the former USS Enterprise (CVN 65).
The Navy originally intended to dismantle the entire 76,000-ton CVN 65 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. However, from 2013 to 2017, the estimated costs of the undertaking rose from $500 million to over $1 billion, forcing the Navy to consider alternatives.
In 2017, the Navy canceled its request for proposals on commercial recycling of non-nuclear portions of the ship and continued assessing its options.
There are two potential options being currently considered. One involves Puget Sound Naval Shipyard dismantling and disposing of a section of the ship that contains the nuclear material— referred to as the propulsion space section—with disposal at the Department of Energy’s Hanford low-level radioactive waste disposal site in the state of Washington. The other entails the Navy awarding a contract for commercial industry to fully dismantle and dispose of the nuclear and non-nuclear materials for the entire ship.
GAO has now issued a review of the Navy’s dismantlement plans. GAO reviewed budget, cost, and schedule documentation, as well as applicable laws, regulations, executive orders, policies, and guidance. The review recommends the Congress to consider requiring Naval Reactors to coordinate with NRC to identify the applicable regulatory authority for a CVN 65 commercial dismantlement and disposal. GAO is also making four recommendations, including that the Navy take action to provide additional budget information and reporting to facilitate improved transparency and accountability for the CVN 65 cost, schedule, and risks.
“Regardless of the approach the Navy chooses, CVN 65 will set precedents for the processes, costs, and oversight that may be used to dismantle and dispose of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the future, such as the Nimitz-class carriers which the Navy will begin to retire in the mid-2020s,” GAO said.
You can read the full report here.