SSBN (X) Will Have Life-of-Ship Reactor Core
A life-of-ship core reactor capability is being pursued for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program (SSBN(X)). Thanks to advances in metallurgy, design and manufacturing, reactors and components can now last for the full service life of the ship, and that means ship will not have to be taken out of service for a costly and lengthy overhaul to be refueled. That also means an overall reduction in number of ships required to execute the mission, because ships won’t be taken out of service as often or for as long.
The Virginia-class of nuclear-powered attack submarines has a General Electric S9G pressurized water reactor, which is designed to operate for 33 years without refueling. A design goal for the Virginia class and the S9G was a “life of ship” core that would not require a lengthy and expensive mid-life refueling (the nominal service life for the 7,800 ton, 277-ft.Virginia is 30 years).
(The 453-foot, 9,200 ton Seawolf-class, which first joined the fleet in 1997, has a S6W reactor. The General Electric S8G reactor is installed on the Ohio-class (SSGN/SSBN-726 class) submarines.)
The new Gerald R. Ford-class of aircraft carriers, now being built at Newport News, has a 50-year reactor, equal to the planned service life of the ship. Other nuclear carriers must undergo a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), which can last up to three years, where the ship receives a complete refurbishment, upgrades and refueling. The RCOH can cost upwards of $3 billion.
The Royal Navy’s new Astute-class submarines will be powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR2 plant. According to Rolls-Royce, Astute “will be fitted with the long-life reactor core, designed for a full platform life, eliminating costly reactor refueling and associated long overhaul periods, thereby increasing availability and helping reduce the cost of ownership.”
Design, prototyping, and technology development efforts for the Ohio Replacement will continue to ensure sufficient technological maturity for lead ship procurement in 2019.
POLARIS POINT, Guam (Dec. 30, 2010) The submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) tends the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776). Hawaii is the first Virginia-class attack submarine to be moored outboard of a submarine tender. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Catherine Bland)
GROTON, Conn. (Jan. 12, 2011) The Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) is covered in snow at Naval Submarine Base New London. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Michael Henderson/Released)