Naval Reactors History Database (nrhdb)
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1Title:  Nuclear propulsion for naval warships Add
 Summary:  This document is a hearing and inquiry record of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy's Subcommittee on Military Applications regarding the application of nuclear propulsion to naval warships. The primary issue of concern to the Joint Committee is the slow adoption of naval nuclear propulsion, a point of contention between the committee and the Department of Defense for more than a decade (under three administrations). The programs and vessels that the Joint Committee was most concerned about in 1972 included the high-speed fast attack submarine (Los Angeles-class); the need for more Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers; the Trident ballistic missile submarine; and, the construction of more nuclear-powered frigates (carrier escort vessels). Vice Admiral Hyman Rickover, who led the Naval Reactors program at the time, testifies at his hearing in strong support of all of these programs. He describes the benefits of the Trident missile submarine, including longer-range missiles, which would make anti-submarine operations by the Soviet Union much more difficult when compared with Polaris submarines. Chief of Naval Operations Elmo Zumwalt describes the Department of Defense's position on nuclear propulsion: "The value of nuclear propulsion is unquestionable. The Navy has stated and will continue to positively state its requirements for nuclear propelled ships to provide strategic flexibility. However, fiscal feasibility and the need for balance in numbers and types of weapons systems in the face of a powerful and diversified Soviet naval capability will continue to be the governing factors in formulating our nuclear programs" (38). Assistant Secretary of Defense David Packard provides additional information on the Department of Defense's position in written testimony and responses to Joint Committee questions. The committee's questions on funding for CVN-70 (later named the USS Carl Vinson) emphasize the long-term contention between it and the executive branch over nuclear-powered carrier construction. One of the questions notes that the expected costs for CVN-70 would increase by more than $125 million if advanced procurement funds were delayed, "due to the disruption which would occur to the special nuclear propulsion plant component production lines established from the Nimitz class carriers," following the construction of the USS Nimitz and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Packard accepts the estimate's accuracy, but adds that he cannot support the CVN-70 until certain criteria are met, noting that "when I am satisfied that the Navy has an adequate program to provide the weapons, both offensive and defensive, and the operational doctrine needed to meet the threat environment of the decade of the 1980's, I would consider approving the CVAN-70" (102). 
 Date:   1972 
 Subject(s):  Naval Reactors 
 Type:  Text 
 Format:  PDF 
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