Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH
Welcome to the website for the SAVANNAH Technical Staff and the Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH, the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship. The SAVANNAH is owned and maintained by the Maritime Administration, and is licensed and regulated by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The primary purposes for this collection of pages is to provide contemporary information about the SAVANNAH and its NRC-licensed activities to interested members of the public, and to provide information about events and activities scheduled on the ship. We add content periodically, so please check back from time-to-time to see what’s new.
Our site is not intended or expected to provide an authoritative history of the SAVANNAH program. The SAVANNAH Technical Staff provides documents and information to support websites (and other information sources) dedicated to this purpose; please scroll down to the Related Links near the bottom of this page for more information about the SAVANNAH’s history and supported websites.
The Maritime Administration is proud to maintain the only National Historic Landmark property in the Department of Transportation inventory. As responsible stewards of the ship and its legacy, the SAVANNAH Technical Staff supports efforts to conserve and preserve the ship for the future. The NS SAVANNAH Associates, Inc., is a non-profit corporation established by the former retirees association to promote these conservation and preservation objectives. Please scroll down to the Related Links section for more information about the Association and a link to its website.
The SAVANNAH in brief
The SAVANNAH is a signature element of President Eisenhower’s visionary Atoms for Peace program. It was constructed as a joint project of the former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Maritime Administration (then part of the U.S. Department of Commerce). Among its primary purposes were to demonstrate the peaceful uses of atomic power; to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear-powered merchant ships; and to develop the maritime infrastructure (e.g., liability and insurance, port security and emergency response, shipyard maintenance and repair, etc.) necessary for subsequent nuclear-powered merchant ships. It accomplished these objectives, and all others that were laid out for it, very satisfactorily.
The SAVANNAH operated from 1962 to 1965 in demonstration service. In 1965 the AEC issued a commercial operating license to the SAVANNAH; License Number NS-1 and ended its participation in the joint program – reverting to the singular role of regulator. The SAVANNAH continued in experimental service as a cargo ship until 1970, after which it was removed from service; was de-fueled in 1971; and its reactor made permanently inoperable in 1975-76. About 95% of the power plant is intact and remains onboard the ship. The SAVANNAH is still licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, successor to the AEC), and will remain so until the nuclear facilities are dismantled, removed from the ship, and properly disposed – a regulated process collectively known as Decommissioning. For more information about decommissioning, please scroll down to the Related Links section.
The SAVANNAH was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It was named an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1983. It was named a Nuclear Engineering Landmark by the American Nuclear Society in 1991. In recognition of the SAVANNAH’s exceptional national significance to the nuclear and maritime heritages of the United States, it was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service on July 17, 1991.
The SAVANNAH is presently located in the Port of Baltimore, Maryland, under a long-term layberth contract with Canton Marine Terminals. The SAVANNAH Technical Staff of the Office of Ship Disposal manages the activities onboard the ship, with strong emphasis on licensed facility operations and pre-decommissioning planning. The Maritime Administration intends to maintain the SAVANNAH in protective storage for some years into the future; however, under current law and regulation the decommissioning process must be completed and the SAVANNAH’s operating license terminated no later than December 2031.
NRC Regulation and Decommissioning
For more information regarding regulation, licensing and decommissioning of nuclear facilities in the United States, please visit the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission at:
Specific documents related to the N.S. SAVANNAH may be searched in the NRC online library, ADAMS. Useful reference information for searches includes the facility name
N.S. SAVANNAH, License No. NS-1 and Docket No. 50-238.
N.S. SAVANNAH History
Previous versions of this website have listed commercial and private websites that provide substantive histories of the SAVANNAH and Atoms for Peace. Recently, the SAVANNAH Technical Staff has been cooperating with a site maintained by David Freeman for the benefit of the public, the ship’s crew and retirees. Dave is a retired member of the original SAVANNAH engineering crew. The website address is:
The website’s purpose is “to help educate and inform the public about the history of the Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH by exploring the crew, ship design, construction, and voyages. It will be a forum for information and news - past, present, and future - on the N/S SAVANNAH itself and the future of nuclear power in merchant ships. It will feature photographs and anecdotes from SAVANNAH alumni and friends as well as featuring authors currently developing documentaries and books on this historical landmark. This site will also support and report on the activities of the Maritime Administration (owner/licensee of the ship) and the N/S SAVANNAH Association, Inc., (a non-profit corporation dedicated to preserving the ship).” (source, nssavannah.net)
Dave’s site is updated and expanded regularly. Recently a number of bulletin boards have been established to promote dialogue about various topics, including the upcoming 50th anniversary events. The STS website will cross-reference with Dave’s to ensure that they remain in agreement.
Another very good source of information about the SAVANNAH is the National Park Service (NPS). As a National Historic Landmark, the SAVANNAH is the subject of several NPS documents, including the original 1981 National Register of Historic Places nomination report, and the 1991 National Historic Landmark nomination study. In addition, the SAVANNAH is the subject of an ongoing recording and documentation project by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER); one of the heritage documentation programs administered by the NPS. When it is completed (est. 2012), the SAVANNAH documentation project will be deposited with the rest of the HAER collection in the Library of Congress, and will be accessible to the public.
The NPS National Historic Landmarks online list is current as of July 2011. Although the SAVANNAH moved to Maryland in May 2008, you will find it still listed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The National Historic Landmark nomination study and accompanying photos may be found by visiting the links below (tested 10/27/2008):
The Historic American Engineering Record may be found with the other NPS heritage documentation programs at:
N.S. SAVANNAH Stewardship, Conservation, and Preservation
From the outset of the decommissioning project, the Maritime Administration has been guided by the stewardship and preservation responsibilities outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and in the presidential Preserve America executive order. The earliest defined goal for decommissioning was that future preservation of the ship was the desired outcome. Consequently, the SAVANNAH Technical Staff has employed the following four principles as it has executed the decommissioning program:
- Wherever possible, decommissioning activities are undertaken in a manner that fosters future preservation;
- All dismantlement activities will use existing ship accesses to minimize impacts to adjacent structure;
- Whenever an option is presented or evaluated, the path that promotes preservation is taken; and,
- Opportunities to improve the ship concurrent with decommissioning are exercised.
Notwithstanding the above, the Maritime Administration’s decommissioning project is not undertaking restoration of the ship; nor is it “making the ship into a museum.” These goals, although supported by the agency, will require interest and actions by other parties. Some limited restoration of the ship’s public amenities, such as reupholstering the fixed seating in the Purser’s Lobby and Veranda, have already been undertaken by private individuals.
After last year’s National Maritime Day reunion events, the SAVANNAH retirees and associates formed a non-profit organization to support the conservation and preservation of the SAVANNAH. The resulting organization is the NS SAVANNAH Associates, Inc. The Association works in close cooperation with MARAD to further our mutual preservation interests. Information about the Association and its sponsorship of commemorative events and activities on the ship is available on a dedicated section of Dave Freeman’s website at www.nssavannah.net
The Association also maintains a website at www.ns-savannah.org.
For general inquiries regarding the SAVANNAH, including visitation and tour information, please contact:
SAVANNAH Technical Staff
c/o Keystone Shipping; N.S. SAVANNAH
Canton Marine Terminals, Pier 13
4601 Newgate Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21224
Fax: (410) 633-4974