The Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding have officially pulled the plug on the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, ending a painstaking, never-before-done process that began several years ago.
The completed inactivation of the former USS Enterprise was confirmed Monday by officials at the Sea-Air-Space 2018 exposition in National Harbor, Maryland.
However, the ship won’t be leaving the area anytime soon.
It is expected to remain at Newport News until 2021, possibly longer, while the Navy assesses the environmental impact of disposal options, said Capt. John Markowicz of Naval Sea Systems Command.
Sailors aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) "man the rails" as the carrier approaches its pier at her homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, on Feb. 29, 2004Photo via DoD/Wikimedia Commons
Several scenarios remain on the table, Markowicz said. The ship could be towed to Puget Sound, where other nuclear vessels have been disposed. But it could also be handled commercially.
The shipyard completed its base contract work on Enterprise in December. The government recently finalized its review and certification of the paperwork.
The Newport News yard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the nation’s sole designer, builder, and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
Enterprise is the only ship of its class and served the country for 51 years. It defended the nation’s interests from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the forerunner of the Nimitz-class ships that now make up the bulk of the carrier fleet.
Enterprise completed its final combat deployment in 2012. It was towed from Naval Station Norfolk to the Newport News shipyard in June 2013.
The deactivation process required more than 1,000 shipbuilders who defueled Enterprise’s eight nuclear reactors, inactivated its propulsion systems and prepared its hull for a final tow.
Shipbuilders are currently doing advance work on the newest Enterprise, which will be the third carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class.
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