When in port between deployments, do nuclear powered submarines shut down their reactor or keep it in an operational state?

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Mudassir Ali 8 months 1 Answer 94 views

Answer ( 1 )

  1. Typically they will shut down as soon as shore power is brought on board.

    Some exceptions would be:
    -Testing that requires the reactor to be critical and can’t be done underway.
    -Unreliable or unavailable shore power services.
    -Short inport stop. It’s not worth the effort to conduct the shutdown procedures to turn around and start up hours later. This one would be a command decision.

    Why shutdown and pay some utility for power when you have a reactor onboard?-Modern US nuclear submarines have 20 (LA class) – 40 (VA class) years worth of nuclear fuel. This sounds like ‘unlimited’ power, but is carefully managed to maximize operational flexibility. It’s silly to waste it sitting at the pier.
    -Nuclear operators are overworked enough. An operating plant needs more people to monitor, manage, and maintain.
    -Many maintenance procedure require the plant to be shutdown. Inport, submarines can be busier than at sea. Systems are taken down, inspected, replaced, tested, upgraded, and repaired to be ready to go back to sea. All of this is coordinated so that the safety systems of the reactor remain within certain reliability and redundancy standards. Also, you can imagine it might be unwise to conduct maintenance inside the reactor compartment with the reactor operating.

    So yes, most of the time, the reactor will be shutdown as soon as possible after pulling alongside the pier and hooking up shore power.

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