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Navy Nuclear-Powered Surface Ships: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress

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Congressional rept.

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Some Members of Congress, particularly on the House Armed Services Committee, have expressed interest in expanding the use of nuclear power to a wider array of Navy surface ships, starting with the Navys planned CGX cruiser, the first of which the Navy wants to procure in FY2011. Section 1012 of the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act makes it U.S. policy to construct the major combatant ships of the Navy, including the CGX, with integrated nuclear power systems, unless the Secretary of Defense submits a notification to Congress that the inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system in a given class of ship is not in the national interest. The Navy has studied nuclear power as a design option for the CGX, but has not yet announced whether it would prefer to build the CGX as a nuclear-powered ship. Procurement of a nuclear-powered CGX in FY2011 would, under normal budgeting practices, involve funding the ships long lead time nuclear-propulsion components in FY2009. A 2006 Navy study concluded the following 1 In constant FY2007 dollars, building a Navy surface combatant with nuclear power rather than conventional power would add roughly 600-800 million to its procurement cost 2 The total life-cycle cost of a nuclear-powered medium-size surface combatant would equal that of a conventionally powered medium-size surface combatant if the cost of crude oil averages 70-225 per barrel over the life of the ship 3 Nuclear power should be considered for near-term applications for medium-size surface combatants and 4 Compared to conventionally powered ships, nuclear-powered ships have advantages in terms of both time needed to surge to a distant theater of operation for a contingency, and in terms of time on station in the theater of operation. Regarding this issue, Congress needs to consider cost, operational effectiveness, ship construction, ship maintenance and repair, crew training, ports calls and forward homeporting, and environmental impact.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Marine Engineering
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies
  • Nuclear Propulsion

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