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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2023

PHNSY Celebrates 75 Years of Naval Reactors

By Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Public Affairs

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program on Aug. 4, 2023.

The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is a Department of Navy and Department of Energy organization jointly responsible for all aspects of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion, including research, design, construction, testing, operation, maintenance, and ultimate disposition of naval nuclear propulsion plants. 

PHNSY & IMF is one of four Navy shipyards with the capability to overhaul, repair, refuel and inactivate nuclear powered ships, and has been performing this work since 1960 – only five years after the first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN 571), made its debut.

Prior to 1960 at PHNSY, the Navy invested over $600,000 in training and $1.5 million in facilities to handle work on nuclear boats. More than 250 engineers from all over the Territory of Hawaii applied for the Navy’s new Cooperative Engineering Program at the shipyard. Eighteen engineers were selected and joined the shipyard in July 1957, paving the way for the Naval Nuclear Propulsions Program in Hawaii.

Three years later, on April 28, 1960, the first nuclear submarine to enter drydock at PHNSY arrived - USS Swordfish (SSN 579).

This was followed by the yard’s first nuclear submarine overhaul on USS Sargo (SSN 583) in early 1962. From 1960-1979, shipyard workers supported the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War and in containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War. USS Los Angeles (SSN 688), the first of a new class of nuclear powered attack submarines, arrived in 1978 to homeport at Pearl Harbor. In 2009, the shipyard welcomed the arrival of the first Virginia–class submarines homeported at Pearl Harbor: USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and USS Texas (SSN 775). In 2010, USS North Carolina (SSN 777) arrived at Pearl Harbor, to become the third Virginia-class submarine to be homeported here.

Over the last 75 years, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has operated 273 reactors plants, taken 562 reactor cores critical including 33 different designs, and steamed more than 171 million miles with over 7,500 reactor years of safe operations.

Today, there are 13 nuclear submarines homeported at Pearl Harbor and PHNSY & IMF Sailors, civilians and contractors continue to keep them fit to fight.

“Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is proud to be a part of Naval Reactors’ 75 years of history,” said John Ornellas, PHNSY & IMF Senior Civilian, Nuclear Engineering & Planning Manager. “The nation’s Nō Ka ‘Oi shipyard in the heart of the Pacific has played a great role in the advancement of nuclear propulsion for 66 of those 75 years.”