Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Nuclear Carrier Refueling Cost

There are certain naval topics that are guaranteed to spark arguments and debates and one of them is the question of nuclear versus conventional power for carriers.  Proponents and critics toss ‘data’ back and forth at each other, each proclaiming that the data unequivocally supports their side of the debate.  How can that be?  How can each side muster seemingly incontrovertible data and arguments?  Shouldn’t the data provide a straightforward, clear cut answer?  Well, it all depends on what you include or exclude in your data set.  Does the cost of the extra tankers needed to support conventional powered carriers get included?  What about the cost of the crews that have to man those tankers?  Or the cost of the fuel storage tanks at some land base that the tankers refuel from?  Or the cost of the refineries that supply the fuel?  And on and on.  The same kinds of questions apply to nuclear power, as well.

From the many studies I’ve read, the costs of conventional versus nuclear power tend to be a wash when all the pertinent factors are included.  For that reason, ComNavOps is ambivalent on the issue.  I have a slight leaning towards conventional power, not for any cost reasons but for the damage control aspects and repairability in battle.  But, I digress …

The point of this post is not to settle the issue but to offer one semi-relevant data point.

One of the major costs for a nuclear carrier is the mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH).  Costs seem to run around several billion dollars, if the Navy is to be believed.  Common sense, however, suggests that this kind of oft cited cost is not true.  Unfortunately, we have no itemized breakdown of the refueling costs to look at.  Remember that carrier refueling is always combined with a massive overhaul effort, the total of which is the cited cost but no one knows how much of the cost is direct nuclear refueling costs and this leads, inevitably to a large part of the ambiguity about nuclear refueling costs.

Well, here’s a related data point.  It’s the SSBNs which also undergo a mid-life refueling overhaul (Engineered Refueling Overhaul – ERO).  As an example, the USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) is currently at the start of a 2-1/2 year refueling overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

The project is expected to finish in 2022 and will take approximately 729,000 man-days to complete with a cost of around $400 million. (1)

Note that the $400M includes both conventional overhaul work and the nuclear refueling work.  The non-nuclear refueling portion of the work – the overhaul  portion – will include hull/tank preservation, a modernized reverse osmosis system, and modifications to accommodate female crew.  Thus, the nuclear refueling costs are something less than $400M.  The overhaul work does not seem terribly extensive or complex so I’d venture a guess that the nuclear portion of the costs is, perhaps, $300M.

That cost, $400M, is immensely less than the RCOH cost of multiple billions of dollars.  Why the enormous cost discrepancy?

One major reason is the sheer scope of the overhaul work – work that has nothing to do with the nuclear refueling.

During the dry dock phase of the RCOH, George Washington underwent significant upgrades and repair work both inside and outside the ship. In addition to defueling and refueling its power plant, Newport News shipbuilders have re-preserved approximately 600 tanks and replaced thousands of valves, pumps and piping components.

On the outside, they performed major structural updates to the island, mast and antenna tower; upgraded all aircraft launch and recovery equipment; painted the ship’s hull, including sea chests and freeboard; updated the propeller shafts, and installed refurbished propellers.

During the next phase of the complex engineering and construction project, shipbuilders will finish up the overhaul and installation of the ship’s major components and test its electronics, combat and propulsion systems before the carrier is redelivered to the navy. This period also will be dedicated to improving the ship’s living areas, including crew living spaces, galleys and mess decks. (2)

It is obvious from that brief description of the non-nuclear overhaul work that the scope and, therefore, cost is enormous. 

What is the split between overhaul and nuclear refueling cost for a carrier RCOH?  Is it 50% each?  Is it 90% nuclear?  Is it 90% overhaul?  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen even a crude breakdown of the cost split and that leads to the aforementioned arguments and suspect data.

On the surface of it, the SSBN ERO cost suggests that the actual nuclear refueling cost is not the major portion of the carrier RCOH and that the overhaul work is, instead, the major portion.  I would go so far as to venture a guess that the overhaul cost is on the order of 70% of the total RCOH cost.  If that’s even remotely correct, that drastically alters the financial arguments that are typically used to debate the nuclear power question.

Of course, a submarine ERO and a carrier RCOH are not directly comparable, even for the nuclear refueling portion of the work.  A carrier’s immense size means that the reactor is buried much deeper in the vessel and access is more difficult.  A carrier presumably has larger reactors and two of them as opposed to the single reactor in a submarine.  And so on.  Presumably, those factors add to the nuclear refueling cost but how much they add to the cost is unknown.  I would guess, perhaps, a 10%-20% premium?

The takeaway from the submarine ERO is that nuclear refueling costs are not inherently obscenely expensive which is the impression so many critics of nuclear power would have us believe.

As I said, this post makes no attempt to settle the nuclear versus conventional power debate.  It only adds a related data point to help guide discussions. 


(1) website, “Ballistic missile submarine USS Louisiana docks for refueling overhaul”, 17-Sep-2019,

(2) website, “USS George Washington undocks during nuclear refueling overhaul”, 1-Oct-2019,


  1. A few quick thoughts, when info kept hidden, obscured, I become suspicious. What do we know

    There was a recent move by Navy/DoD to cancel Truman four year RCOH, to save the budgeted cost of $6.5 billion (a Navy game to pressure Congress to increase funding). You could build a new conventional powered carrier in six years for approx same cost, no breakout given for the cost for nuclear refuelling. GAO reported August the actual cost of the Enterprise Inactivation Phase 12/2012 to 12/2017 was $863M which included removing the nuclear fuel from the ship’s reactors and taking off equipment and other materials in preparation for dismantlement of the ship, estimate another $1 to 1.5 billion.

    USS Louisiana (SSBN-743)with single nuclear reactor."The project is expected to finish in 2022 and will take approximately 729,000 man-days to complete with a cost of around $400 million." 729,00 man days x 8 hours = 5..8 million hours - really, presume they mean 729,000 man hours for $40 million gives ~ $55 dollars an hour, so cost nuclear element of de-fuelling and refuelling not included.

    The GAO reported midlife modernization cost in 1997$ Conventional $866 million, Nuclear $2,382 million, nuclear carrier 275% higher.

    USNI Oct 28 Modly speaking to reporters at the Military Reporters and Editors annual conference. "Thomas Modly, the number-two civilian leader of the Navy and Marine Corps noted that the carrier strike group has always been a large expense for the Navy but that today it constitutes a much larger percentage of the bill. In the 1980s, the carrier strike group cost about 14 percent of the total Navy operating cost. Today it’s 31 percent."
    Why have costs exploded by 100+%, mainly carriers now all nuclear?, in 1985 there were eleven carriers, seven conventional and four nuclear, today there are ten all nuclear, eleven if include Ford and the air wings smaller.
    Spelt out in detail why nuclear so expensive if you read the August 1998 GAO/NSIAD-98-1GAO 190+ page report -  NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS Cost-Effectiveness of Conventionally and Nuclear-Powered Carriers.

    1. Apologizes, need to correct my earlier post re the USS Louisiana SSBN two and half year mid-life nuclear refueling overhaul at Bremerton. "The project is expected to finish in 2022 and will take approximately 729,000 man-days to complete with a cost of around $400 million."

      Why so low a figure of $400 million for a SSBN and the Truman RCOH quoted at $6.5 billion, my heroic assumptions due to lack of info from Navy, the Navsea Sep 12 PR release now not responding/taken down? If interpreting the wording correctly the $400 million is purely the shipyard cost for the estimated 729,000 man-days ~5,832,000 man-hours with say 20% of the $400 million for sub contracts based on pareto rule, which would equate ~$55 per hour including the overheads which for nuclear yard are higher due the stringent nuclear environmental and security requirements.

      Guessing the cost of disposing the old nuclear fuel and the new nuclear fuel elements are funded separately by Navy, in effect GFE for the Louisiana mid-life update and not included in the $400 million quoted?

    2. "in effect GFE for the Louisiana mid-life update and not included in the $400 million quoted?"

      I have no idea. However, if they aren't included then they're not included in the carrier RCOH either.

    3. "I have no idea. However, if they aren't included then they're not included in the carrier RCOH either."

      That's an assumption, when has the Navy been consistent, think the nuclear costs are included in the CVN RCOH, but as you later note "As you, I, and others have noted, the costs don't add up and aren't logically consistent."

      Personally think it's a deliberate policy of DoD/Navy to obfuscate nuclear costs as so expensive, just wish GAO would do detailed report on CVN RCOH.

  2. I think it comes down to what direction keeps the carrier force as viable part of deterrence as possible. Train more deploy less. Spread out basing. Add one to Pearl, one to Mayport. Get more Drydocks updated and available Pearl, Yokosuka, maybe Toulon. Fix the air wing composition. Max out production and use stripped down hulls as LHAs. I'd rather have 18 hulls of one type with excess capacity than 20 hulls getting built at an anemic build rate. The future will thank us.

  3. Well, if we suppose that refuelling for SSBN-743 is 300M$ by comparing the power plant:

    - SSBN-743 -> 45MW
    - CVN-73 -> 194MW

    Carrier power plant is roughly 4.3 times the submarine one, so it's cost could be estimated as 4.3 X 300M$ = 1300 M$

    1. Interesting. Of course, there would be economy of scale for the multiple carrier reactors. For example, cutting open a carrier to get to one reactor likely provides much of the needed access for the second. Similarly, obtaining, transporting, and moving the fuel for one reactor probably makes the logistics for the second relatively cheap. And so on.

      I have no idea if costs scale with size/power output. I suspect only loosely. Still, an interesting take on it.

  4. If the costs comparison of nuclear carrier vs conventional is basically a wash...

    ...doesn't the pain in the butt factor tilt the argument towards conventional? (Without even considering CNO's comment about damage control.)

    Maybe we should leave nuclear to the subs where it is really needed.

    What are the tactical advantages that a nuclear powered carrier has over a new construction Kitty Hawk? (serious question)

    1. "What are the tactical advantages that a nuclear powered carrier has"

      Unlimited range at full speed although given the necessity to refuel its escorts, that's a marginal advantage. One can understand why the Navy once built nuclear escort cruisers (California and Virginia classes).

      By not having to have its own (massive!) fuel tanks, nuclear carriers have much more storage for jet fuel and for fuel to transfer to its escorts. The reduced tankerage also makes available more space for magazines or whatever else a designer might want to add. Not needing to refuel the carrier allows reduced oiler requirements for the fleet.

      Nuclear carriers have greatly reduced propulsion air intake and exhaust. The reduced exhaust presumably decreases the carrier's infrared signature.

      Conventional carriers have a significant exhaust turbulence which impacts landing aircraft. Nuclear carriers do not have this phenomenon.

    2. Thanks CNO, those are some legit factors.

    3. CNO, if you don't mind too many questions...

      How problematic is the nuclear reactor in damage control?

      It seems like it would be on the fragile side for a fighting ship, at least as compared to a sub where I'd think it doesn't really matter because if the hull is breached it's going to the bottom regardless.

    4. "How problematic is the nuclear reactor in damage control?"

      Well, this is the big unknown - at least, unknown in public circles. I would assume that various cooling pipes and whatnot, when damaged, could spill radioactive liquids. Thus, what might otherwise be minimal, easily isolated and repaired damage, becomes unapproachable damage that can't be repaired and could worsen (fires spreading because we can't approach the area, for example). There's also the specter of more direct damage to the reactor itself. For a conventional turbine, for example, direct damage might render the turbine non-functional but at least it would pose no further threat to the ship whereas a ruptured reactor is a threat to the ship.

      Again, this is pure speculation on my part. I may be completely wrong about this but I suspect I'm not too far off base. Consider the examples of civilian nuclear plants (Chernobyl, Japan, Three Mile Island, etc.) that have suffered damage and how difficult and catastrophic they have been as far as damage control efforts. They give us a pretty good idea of what to expect from battle damage. In fact, they may be the best case because, in combat, there may be more severe and direct damage to the reactor itself.

      There's also the issue of damage control personnel. Every sailor is trained on conventional firefighting. How many are trained to operate in a radioactive contaminated environment? Few, I suspect.

    5. Thanks for making it understandable.

    6. On Battle and nuclear reactors.

      Interesting. You know in retrospect when really you assumed most people never really had a chance to harm your CVs say the 70s and your other option was large scale war with the USSR. Possibly not a big worry.

      However, now with the proliferation of better more effective anti ship missiles and subs one wonders if the risk of floating Chernobyl is not perhaps a bit risky. In something that is not total war a damaged CV spewing radiation would potentially be a serious problem in US relations.

    7. You run the risk of a simple cracked pipe or leaking valve causing the loss of an entire $15B carrier, not due to physical damage but due to irradiation. It's not like you can pull a radiating carrier into port to repair it. Has the Navy given any thought to how to repair a carrier with radiation damage?

      We mock the Navy for their one-hit abandonment policy for the LCS and yet we could have a one-hit abandonment for a nuclear carrier if that hit happened to produce radiation contamination.

    8. After reading all the comments I think nuclear carriers are designed with the mentality of a naval power that dwarfed the others and thinking that the carriers never will be in risk.

      But with the emergence of China that has became invalid.

      Shouldn't the new carriers take into account the possibility of being hit and maybe be conventional, not nuclear?

    9. I guess I always assumed carriers would just sink,especially during Cold War when using nukes by Soviets was very probable BUT today? Maybe we need to look at a carrier taking conventional hits and staying afloat with a damaged reactor, that's bad news.

      Interesting question!!!

    10. Considering that the Nimitzes were designed in the midst of the Cold War, when we were facing a significant peer threat, I think they are stoutly built, including the reactor and associated systems. In the 60s, we hadnt yet gotten institutional amnesia about damage control, redundancy, and the need for damaged ships to continue fighting. The ordeals survived by Yorktown, Franklin, and other WWII cartiers, as well as Forrestal and Enterprise, were still relatively fresh examples in the minds of designers and Navy brass. So while much of the Nimitzes operational history has them "plinking pickups" and fighting non-peers, they were designed in and for a different era, one that we are moving back into. More modern ships lack the institutional common sense designs, but I have to think that the Nimitzes are still relatively the right tool for the upcoming job, although the Fords may not be....

    11. @Jjabatie

      Different era true but one that might not require damage control just luck. Consider if Vasili Arkhipov had Ok-ed the launch a nuclear torpedo against the US ships dogging his Russian sub in 1962. The Randolph was no Nimitz but would she and her escorts have survived, been reparable, would it even mattered once JFK pushed the button on the SIOP in response?

      That's the thing there was only one peer war for the US up until about maybe a 15-20 years ago and it tended to not end well for anyone.

      But also the toys to really hurt a CV were not that well distributed, cheap or easy to field. So the logistical gains from nuclear power kinda make sense. But given the public apathy to nuclear accidents, and the point that there is probably nothing to with a damaged (reactor wise) nuclear ship or sub but scuttle it it might not be worth it anymore.

    12. Thats assuming that everyone goes nuclear. If that had, or will ever happen, then most conventional forces wont generally cease to matter, but I dont see it. I think the ships are well built for the Soviet threat they faced, which will serve us pretty well in the Pacific. The onslaughts of air launched cruise missles in a modern Battle of the Atlantic were things that were looked at. And while theres a ton of hype about hypersonics and "carrier killers", they're just new ways to deliver damage to our carriers...

    13. "You run the risk of a simple cracked pipe or leaking valve causing the loss of an entire $15B carrier, not due to physical damage but due to irradiation."
      So little is know about the design of naval reactors that it is difficult to be sure what the risks might be.
      The most basic of assumptions is that naval reactors are pressurized water reactors, so at a minimum there is the production of tritium in the primary reactor coolant. Tritium builds up over time due to absorption of neutrons by the hydrogen or boron in the water(it is unclear if boron is used in naval reactors for reactivity control but may be unnecessary because of the use of highly enriched uranium -HEU). The majority of tritium (90%) is produced from irradiation of boron in commercial reactors so the use of HEU may significantly reduce the radioactivity of the primary coolant water. Tritium and deuterium can be removed from water, so the risk can be mitigated if the naval reactors have a process to remove the radioactive hydrogen and store it in solid form such as titanium hydride. A cracked pipe or valve in a reactor with such a system would result in minimally radioactive water being leaked into a confined space. The solution to the problem would be dilution with water and pump into the ocean. As soon as the reactor room was flushed and dried there would be minimal to no increase in radiation. Additionally, tritium is a very weak beta emitter. It is very easy to prevent radiation poisoning since you basically just need to avoid ingesting it. The top layer of dead skin cells is sufficient shielding from the beta radiation of tritium.
      The fuel for the reactors is unknown. It is thought to be a Cermet (Ceramic metal composite) or less likely a metal alloy. Either of which are completely different than commercial reactor fuel. The metallic nature of the fuel limits the temperature rise across the fuel and makes hydrogen production and meltdown of the core very unlikely. The closest open sources to the type of fuel that may be similar to the fuel in naval reactors are from Lightbridge and PNNL.
      Both fuel types are very good at retaining fission products in the fuel and not releasing them. Fission products are the other main source of radiation that could be released in a damaged nuclear reactor.
      Naval reactors are a big black box, but the few scraps of information that leak out, together with the significant safety record suggest very robust systems that are highly reliable and not likely to cause significant irradiation events.

    14. Always good to hear from someone a better understanding! Thanks for the information.

  5. Apparently the early nuclear submarines had refuelling hatches above their rectors, but that hasnt been the case for some time. Cutting the hull even for conventional subs during a major overhaul is now preferred.
    As for nuclear carriers , they should have enough space designed for the purpose around the reactor core and the primary steam system to allow maintenance and changing the nuclear rods without coming in from the side. Cutting the sides means multiple compartments including those of the protective bulkheads and seems a very complicated process . But its hard to find details that confirm this.

    1. Not many articles on USN reactors and refueling. Just found this one on LOS reactors, still good read. More things to worry about....

    2. yes. Interesting observations that the refuelling process allows close inspection of the reactor core vessel for corrosion and defects. Maybe the miniaturisation of HD cameras etc allows that now on an ongoing basis as even during refueling no ones going to go inside the core.

  6. I had dug pretty deep previously on the RCOH subject, and I recall finding best numbers for the Vinson. The actual nuclear refuelling component of that RCOH was $510m in 2019 dollars...

    1. Do you have a reference for that?

    2. Its buried deep in my digging, but ill try and find the specifics!!

      I put much of the info I found in this post.
      One correction to my earlier statement...the $510M is actually $612M in 2019 dollars...

    4. Will try and post the articles/reports etc later on as i have time...

    5. "I put much of the info I found in this post. "

      I recall that post and discussion. You had no definitive link. Instead, you were making some assumptions and then arriving at 'calculated' costs. Your assumptions were reasonable but not definitive. I've been looking for something definitive and have yet to find anything. I'll keep searching.

      As you, I, and others have noted, the costs don't add up and aren't logically consistent.

  7. For what it's worth, the Columbia-class SSBN, intended for a 42 year life, are supposed to have a life of the ship reactor core. Not to say that it won't need a mid-life refurbishment to replace worn out and out of date equipment.

    It would interesting to know the tradeoff in cost between a submarine with a reactor that lasts the life of the ship to that of one that requires a mid-life refuelling.

  8. I'm unqualified to comment on the relative costs, I am continually surprised that the tactical, operational, and strategic flexibility of nuclear powered ships is not more readily and heavily discussed.

    We've had the Enterprise/Long Beach/Bainbridge showing off the possibilities with Operation Sea Orbit, but yet even the concept of nuclear cruisers and nuclear logistics ships are on no one of authority's horizon.

    Beyond even the tactical/operational/stragetic stuff, the impending use of directed energy, ever more powerful radar, and electric ship designs, demand for ship electricy will only grow heavily, and nothing gives you electrical power like a nuke plant.

    1. "Operation Sea Orbit"

      For those who might not be familiar with it, this was the around-the-world demonstration by the nuclear ships Enterprise, Long Beach, and Bainbridge. The trip took around 60 some days and, of course, required no refueling.

      Some say that this demonstrated the value of nuclear power in that it removed logistic support from consideration and planning. While this is true from a purely fuel standpoint, it is not true from a provisions, jet fuel, and munitions standpoint. If the group had entered combat, those things would have had to have been replenished in short order.

      So, nuclear power removes the fueling concern but not the remaining logistics concerns.

      " the concept of nuclear cruisers and nuclear logistics ships"

      Very nice comment. Nuclear logistics ships would be the next logical extension of a nuclear task force. On the other hand, given the need for a logistics ship to frequently put into port to replenish its delivery inventory, the presence of nuclear propulsion is a lesser benefit.

      The overall summation is that nuclear power offers some limited tactical benefits but the other logistical requirements tend to negate those benefits.

      What tactical, operational, and strategic benefits do you see that I've not mentioned?

  9. Thank you for the question! You've certainly hit the high points.

    Tactically, enabling the escorts and logistics ship to manuever at high speed for long durations along with the carrier gives the carrier group greater surviability in escaping missile-centric kill chains. Escorts should be able to keep up with carriers, and if a detected group needs to displace after they've been detected, better that it should have the option to stay in formation for survivabilities sake. Tactially, being able to operate at maximum ship speed, maximum radar power, and with maximum use of directed energy systems maximizes lethality and survivability, and this means nuclear power.

    Operationally, because we're going to be loathe to operate capital ships inside enemy A2/AD Missile Engagement Zones, we're going to instead be operating across wide expanses of blue water. Being able to manuever without regard to fuel state takes maximum operational advantage of broad, blue water space. An enemy who has to look from the First Island Chain to Hawaii, from Artic to Antartic, , continously, every day to find ships to engage is an enemy who is degraded as a threat.

    I would entirely agree that the logistical fleet is embarassingly, dangerously below capacity and capability. The submarine community is very impressive in their efforts to maximize their logistical capability while underway. There are likely lessons to be learned here by the surface fleet.

    Strategically, we have a forward-based fleet that needs maximally effective ships and a home fleet that will need to sortie at maximum speed and arrive to a combat zone ready for battle. Nuclear power supports this strategy better than hydrocarbon power.

    1. "Being able to manuever without regard to fuel state takes maximum operational advantage of broad, blue water space."

      " fleet that will need to sortie at maximum speed"

      You're making an interesting argument and one that's commonly made. However, there are some limiting aspects even to this.

      Yes, in the short term, speed is quite useful. However, speed is not generally a routine combat operational requirement. For example, a carrier group that embarks on a mission would rarely (never) begin at maximum speed and sustain that speed throughout the mission and all the way back to port. Why? The problem with sustained high speed is that the smaller escorts would be pounded into paperweights by the sea. High speed sailing takes a terrible toll on ships in all but extreme calm sea states. A carrier group would, instead, opt to sail at physically less punishing speeds for the bulk of the mission sailing time. Now, as in WWII, the actual run-in to the mission combat point might well be executed at high speed but, as we saw in WWII, fuel for such a mission profile was never a limiting factor although the refueling logistics had to be taken into account. Add in the extreme frailty of modern ships and high speeds are even more punishing.

      The point is that while unlimited high speed is theoretically attractive, the reality is that lower speeds are far more common and high speeds can be easily attained and sustained for the combat portion of a mission without needing to resort to nuclear power.

      Is nuclear power and unlimited high speed a handy thing to have? Sure! Is it worth the attendant costs? That's a less definitive answer.

      "An enemy who has to look from the First Island Chain to Hawaii, from Artic to Antartic, , continously, every day to find ships"

      With the above discussion in mind, this statement now becomes somewhat less valid. No task force is going to continuously sail at full speed.

      Also, bear in mind that high speed carries with it some significant drawbacks, especially as regards ASW. At high speed, the group is acoustically loud and easily detected from far off. Worse, the group's organic sonar is rendered useless due to high speed self-noise.

      High speed also increases other sensor signatures. For example, the wakes produced by a carrier group of many vessels sailing at high speed is far more easily detected by satellites and other sensors.

      The overall, by now belabored point, is that speed, while certainly useful at appropriate moments, is not something that is constantly required or desirable, even if the power (nuclear) is available.

      Does any of this alter your thinking, at all?

    2. Sure!

      I don't have access to anything but open-source, and I'd love to find any Distro A analysis of ship speed as it relates to tactical and operational development.

      Your point about ship structure surviving high speeds depending on sea state is noteable, and well taken.

      I have seen statements (I'd have to go and look for the particular details) that give speed/power datum for Burkes. That is, to operate the radar at full power limits speed, and vice versa. I intuit that it would be useful to not have that as a limitation.

      You've certainly been an inspiration in arguing for more robust ships, and structural survivability at speed is another point taken in why tough ships matter.

      I think that the fleet will need more individual EW, lasers, and HPM sysems on a per ship basis than we currently think that we'll need in order to execute the much more robust AAW defense "inside the horizon" that appears in the open source discussion. An early draft of Burke Flt III lost a hangar in exchange for an electrical generator. SWaP considerations means that we'll never have enough space and weight, and for a fixed space and weight, we'll get our most power from nuke plants.

      In my head, I imagine more of a "dash-operate-dash" kind of setting, and I'm assuming more flexibility with nuke plants in that setting.

    3. "operate the radar at full power limits speed, and vice versa. I intuit that it would be useful to not have that as a limitation."

      "Burke Flt III lost a hangar in exchange for an electrical generator."

      Please don't mistake ship design limitations for tactical failings. I want to kill a cockroach so I'll procure a five thousand ton weight. Well, that will work but it's vast overkill when a properly designed hand hammer will do the job just fine. Similarly, I need a few more kilowatts of power for my radar so I'll install a nuclear reactor. Well, that will work but it's vast overkill when a properly designed ship will do the job just fine.

      The Burkes have max'ed out. We've loaded too much into them. The answer isn't nuclear power, the answer is a new ship design whose power supply is properly sized for the new and anticipated equipment.

      Now, if nuclear power confers enough other advantages then, sure, do it.

      The Navy is trying to shoehorn equipment into a Burke that the ship just isn't designed to accommodate. That's bad planning not equipment failings. A properly designed new cruiser (which is what a Burke Flt III is) could easily supply all the needed power.

      I'm not arguing against nuclear power. I'm arguing against using nuclear power to compensate for inherently poor designs.

      "Your point about ship structure surviving high speeds depending on sea state is noteable, and well taken."

      Just as a point of interest, the Burkes had to have additional strengthening strakes welded on because the stress of normal sailing was damaging the hull. That's how weakly our modern ships are being built!

    4. I know that I have personal blinders on because my education was in physics and I had nuke guys teaching me, so I'm inclined that way by background.

      I wish Big Navy was as awesome as I wanted it to be, that it could argue for a primacy of place in the budget, and that it could get tremendous value for money, but that is fiction.

      Nuke power is stubbornly held to in the carrier aviation and sub communities, and we have cruiser and logistics nuke experience, but it seems like we went away from that and are not to return.

      If there's an economic argument, I get that. I wonder how we value the non-economic arguments.

      And I hope surface Navy manages to get away from Burkes at some point in the future.


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