ASME-Landmark:N.S. Savannah


On April 25, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced plans for a nuclear powered merchant ship. The ship was designed by George G. Sharp, Inc. of New York and was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey. The Babcock and Wilcox Company as prime contractor for the power plant designed and built the 74 maximum power thermal megawatt pressurized water reactor.

In a ceremony on July 21, 1959, Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower christened the N.S. Savannah, which then slipped down the building ways into the Delaware River. Named for the first steam ship to make a transatlantic voyage (the S.S. Savannah of 1819), the N.S. Savannah was essentially completed in the spring of 1961. After public hearings on the safety of the ship's nuclear system and following extensive tests of the reactor and propulsion plant, the reactor was loaded with uranium oxide fuel in the fall of 1961.

During her sea trials, the captain showed that the Savannah's reactor could actually surpass its original operating objectives. Instead of delivering 20,000 shaft horsepower to a single propeller, the plant easily produced more than 22,300. Instead of being limited to about 20 knots, Savannah surged along at 24. In 1965, Savannah was converted from a passenger ship to a cargo ship and continued to serve as a goodwill ambassador and a cruising exhibit for the peaceful use of nuclear power in visits to Africa, the Far East, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe until she was retired in 1971. See ASME website for more information