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Nuclear Navy celebrates end of era in Idaho

The three prototype propulsion plants at NRF have been used to provide training to about 39,000 Navy students.

S5G Propulsion Plant with water in basin at the Naval Reactors Facility. To verify that new design concepts would work in an operational submarine, this prototype was built in a submarine hull section capable of simulating the rolling motion of a ship at sea. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Nuclear Navy celebrates end of era in Idaho

(Reprinted from May 30, 1995, INEL News. Editor’s Note – This article was submitted by Judy Ireland, Westinghouse Electric Corporation communications director at the Naval Reactors Facility.)

The Naval Reactors Facility was established in the early 1950s to support development of Naval nuclear propulsion. The facility is operated by Westinghouse Electric Corporation under the supervision of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

The three prototype propulsion plants at NRF have been used to provide training to about 39,000 Navy students.

The last operational prototype, S5G, shut down in May 1995. With the shutdown of this prototype propulsion plant, Navy student training and operational testing of the prototypes will end; however, operations are expected to continue at the Extended Core Facility (ECF) in support of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Students assigned to the prototypes at NRF were part of the Navy’s Idaho Nuclear Power Training Unit, or NPTU Idaho.

Over the years, the typical Navy student at NRF was in Idaho for about six months. Selection for the program was an honor for Naval personnel.

Prior to arriving in Idaho, students experienced extensive training, including more than six months of training at Nuclear Power School. Navy staff personnel also were assigned to NPTU Idaho in support of training and testing. During the mid 1980s, NRF experienced the highest number of Navy staff and students on site with peaks of approximately 1,700 total Navy personnel.

The S1W, the A1W and the S5G are prototype nuclear propulsion reactors that were used to provide training to Navy students on the operation of nuclear propulsion plants in an environment nearly identical to actual conditions aboard a submarine, aircraft carrier or other surface ship in the Navy fleet.

The first prototype constructed at NRF was the S1W. In 1950, under the direction of then Capt. Hyman G. Rickover, S1W construction began. This facility was the prototype for the propulsion plant that would power the world’s first nuclear powered ship, USS Nautilus.

Power operations at S1W commenced in 1953, marking the first production of significant quantities of useful nuclear power in the world. In October 1989, S1W was permanently shut down. More than 12,500 students received training at S1W during its 36 years of operation.

The second prototype constructed at NRF, the A1W, was the prototype for USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Power operations commenced in October 1958. Reduced training requirements for a smaller Navy resulted in the shutdown of the A1W prototype on Jan. 26, 1994. More than 14,500 students were trained at A1W during 35 years of operation.

The third prototype constructed at NRF is the S5G, which first operated in 1965. More than 11,500 students received training at S5G.

Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office