Printed on: November 11, 2012

Nuclear fuel to be shipped to Idaho

By Alex Stuckey

The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier played a key role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and responded to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

But now the USS Enterprise is being decommissioned after more than 50 years.

And its spent nuclear fuel is being sent to Idaho.

"Many of the major components and other equipment are nearing the end of their useful life, and it's not cost effective to further extend the Enterprise for combat operations," said Tom Dougan, spokesman for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

The aircraft carrier will be declared inactive following a ceremony at the naval station in Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 1.

The inactivation process will last four years. The spent fuel from all eight Enterprise reactors will reach the Naval Reactors Facility by railcar in 2015, Dougan said.

The Naval Reactors Facility is on the Department of Energy's desert site west of Idaho Falls.

"(The) fuel is transported via rail in specially designed railcars that meet the Department of Transportation shipping requirements for spent nuclear fuel," he said.

Once there, the fuel will be examined to help future reactor design research. The spent fuel then will be placed in storage at the facility.

"The Navy has been managing spent fuel in Idaho since the late 1950s," Dougan said.

This process is expected to last into 2016, he said.

Though the Enterprise is being decommissioned, two other carriers are under construction to stand in its place.

The Gerald R. Ford will be commissioned in 2015 and the John F. Kennedy is estimated to be commissioned in 2022, Dougan said.