The First Nuclear-Powered Vessels

The most revolutionary development in ship propulsion was nuclear power, first used in the submarine USS Nautilus in 1954

In 1962 the first commercial nuclear-powered ship, the NS Savannah, was launched in Camden, New Jersey. Named for the Savannah, the famous 19th-century steamship that pioneered transatlantic steam travel, NS Savannah measures 182 m (596 ft) and is powered by nuclear-driven turbines. Although it was an engineering success, NS Savannah proved a commercial failure. It could not carry enough cargo to be competitive and required a larger crew than comparable oil-powered ships (The First Nuclear-Powered Vessels, Commercial Nuclear Power Ships, Submarine USS Nautilus 1954, NS Savannah, Naval Vessels).

The most revolutionary development in ship propulsion was nuclear power, first used in the submarine USS Nautilus in 1954. Nautilus cruised at more than 20 knots and could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods. In 1958 the Nautilus made the first undersea crossing at the North Pole. The Nautilus could fire guided missiles or ballistic missiles at enemy land targets from a submerged position. Nautilus's successes were legendary, and soon all the major naval powers had nuclear submarines in their fleets.

NS Savannah remains the only commercial nuclear-powered vessel ever built. Nuclear power proved prohibitively expensive for commercial purposes. The military recognized the potential for nuclear power. Unrestricted by cost, navies of the United States, Russia, Britain, and France developed a variety of naval vessels operated by nuclear power (The First Nuclear-Powered Vessels, Commercial Nuclear Power Ships, Submarine USS Nautilus 1954, NS Savannah, Naval Vessels).

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