World’s First Nuclear-Powered Submarine Returns Home After a $36 Million Refit

The USS Nautilus will be reopened for the public this upcoming Fall 8 photos
Photo: Facebook/U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum
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Today’s new-generation military submarines are becoming more sustainable and more powerful, building on the foundation that was laid by pioneers such as USS Nautilus. Celebrated as the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, this historic ship is now ready to continue its educational role for decades to come, thanks to an extensive preservation project.
It was 1954 when the first nuclear-powered submarine was commissioned at Groton, Connecticut. A team of scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission had developed a nuclear propulsion plant that would pave the way for a new generation of underwater vehicles.

The following year, Nautilus made its first journey on nuclear power. After its first sea trials, on the way to Puerto Rico, USS Nautilus already set a world record that hasn’t been surpassed to this day. And that was the longest submerged cruise and the highest submerged speed sustained by a submarine for more than an hour. The powerful vessel had stayed submerged while covering 1,381 miles (2,222 km) in 89.8 hours.

In 1957, Nautilus would demonstrate its game-changing capabilities once again. Until then, U.S. submarines couldn’t operate in the frozen northern oceans because of the limitations of diesel propulsion in icy conditions. Nautilus was the first to make it to the Arctic, a great achievement that “allowed access to the previously protected waters of the Soviet Union.”

After a long and successful career, the almighty submarine was decommissioned in 1980. By that time, the U.S. Navy was already operating a modern fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, thanks to the pioneering work of Nautilus. Six years later, it would be open to the public as a historic ship, as part of the new Submarine Force Museum.

Last year, the Navy announced a massive $36 million preservation project meant to ensure USS Nautilus stayed in good shape for 30 more years. The 319-footer (97 meters) recently made it back home at the Museum, American Military News reports, after having completed the refit at the Naval Submarine Base.

That’s where it got a full paint job, a thorough inspection of its internal and external tanks, upgrades of its lighting and electrical systems, and brand-new wood decking. The preservation work also included adding extra access points for staff members.

Throughout August, maintenance work will continue at the Museum, Lt. Cmdr. Derek Sutton, officer-in-charge of the Nautilus, told American Military News. The Museum will reopen on August 19, but the newly-refurbished historic ship won’t be revealed until later this year, on September 9.

That’s the first day of the popular Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, a perfect occasion for the public to step on board the USS Nautilus and rediscover this important piece of the American naval history.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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