Logistics: Breaking Up Is Expensive To Do


July 7, 2007: The U.S. Navy has built, or is building, 225 nuclear powered ships. So far. Unlike conventionally powered ships, which can be sent abroad, to be cut up for scrap, when they are retired, the nuclear powered ships must be disassembled in the United States so that the nuclear power plant can be safely removed, and transported to a nuclear waste storage site. This costs a lot more, especially if it's an older ship that also contains asbestos and other materials that are now considered highly poisonous.

For example, the 18 nuclear subs currently being retired, and cut up, date only from the 1980s, and will cost about $30 million each to dispose of. This is after you account for the millions of dollars of useful parts and supplies removed from the sub, and the sale of recyclable materials.

But a larger, and older ship, like the carrier Enterprise (the first nuclear powered carrier), will cost over half a billion dollars to dispose of, when its turn comes in about five years.

The U.S. began building nuclear powered ships half a century ago, and in the next decade, dozens will meet the breakers. Non-nuclear ships can be sunk as reefs, after a few million dollars is spent to get gear, and some dangerous chemicals, off. But the nukes have to be cut up with care, and great expense. Nuclear power may be cheap to generate, but the power plants are very expensive to build, and dispose of.


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