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By Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers Public Affairs
WASHINGTON -- As the nation’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sits pierside at Newport News Shipbuilding awaiting dismantlement, a small team of Navy engineers, planners, and financial analysts have been working for months establishing the first Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier (CVN) Inactivation and Disposal Program Office (PMS 368), within Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers (PEO CVN).
On Friday, the Navy marked the ceremonial stand-up of PMS 368, recognizing the initial team of “plank owners” behind the multi-billion-dollar effort required for dismantling and disposing of the former USS Enterprise (CVN 65) as well as the future inactivation, dismantlement, and disposal of USS Nimitz (CVN 68)-class aircraft carriers. Lessons learned on Enterprise will be used to inform potential disposal options for the 10 Nimitz-class ships in the aircraft carrier fleet, as they retire over time.
“Dismantling and disposing of Enterprise—the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to serve the nation, is a monumental task and a historic milestone for the Navy,” said Rear Adm. Casey Moton, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers.
“It’s a task that touches stakeholders across Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Reactors, and the Departments of Navy, Defense, and Energy—and one that carries with it an opportunity to leverage the expertise and capacity of the industrial base to augment the capacity of the Nation’s public shipyards.”
The PMS 368 Program Office
In August 2023, Jay Stefany, acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research Development and Acquisition, set the foundation for establishing the CVN Inactivation and Disposal Program Office, recognizing the critical importance of appointing a dedicated, accountable major program manager, deputy program manager, and core support team to execute the mission.
Capt. William B. Cleveland, previously a Principal Assistant Program Manager (PAPM) in PEO CVN’s In-service Aircraft Carriers Program Office, was selected to lead the new office; and Brett English, a former Principal Assistant Program Manager in PEO CVN’s Gerald R. Ford-Class Program Office (PMS 378), was selected to serve as deputy. Both selectees are highly qualified acquisition professionals and have training and experience within the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
PMS 368 and Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carriers
With the last Nimitz-class ship, USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), scheduled for inactivation in the mid-2060s, PMS 368 faces decades of work ahead, as the Nation’s carriers serve, retire, and are replaced by new classes of cutting-edge technology.
“The United States is the only country in the world that builds nuclear-powered, large-deck carriers,” said Cleveland, “and for the first time, we’re creating a blueprint for the Navy on how to dispose of them. It’s exciting work that will shape standards across the Navy’s nuclear enterprise, with incredible opportunities for collaboration across multiple disciplines and innovation in defining integrated practices.”
English echoed Cleveland’s excitement over the task that lies ahead. “Aircraft Carriers are iconic symbols of the Nation, and every phase of a ship’s life—from commissioning, through maintenance availabilities, through the mid-life refueling complex overhaul, until final defueling, inactivation, and disposal—is linked to fleet readiness and our national defense. Our task is to safely and efficiently inactivate and dispose of these historic combatants, while adhering to strict environmental guidelines and considering the needs of multiple stakeholders.”
The Road to ex-Enterprise’s Dismantlement
The Navy commissioned Enterprise in November 1961, and the ship served for 51 years, before inactivation in December 2012 and subsequent decommissioning in February 2017.
After multiple assessments comprising technical analysis, market research and environmental reviews looking at alternatives for disposing of ex-Enterprise and its defueled naval reactor plants, the Navy released the final Record-of-Decision (ROD) to the public in September 2023. The ROD identified commercial dismantlement as the Navy’s preferred alternative, a selection that enables the Nation’s public shipyards to focus their limited resources on fleet maintenance priorities.
The selected alternative safely disposes of CVN 65, including its radiological and other hazardous materials, in approximately five years, as compared to 15 years proposed in another alternative, and at half the cost to the taxpayer—while also minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. A link to the ROD and Final EIS documents may be found at this website: https://www.carrierdisposaleis.com/
The Navy tested a similar commercial approach with great success just last year, when it completed decommissioning work on its Surface Ship Support Barge (SSSB)—which served as the primary platform supporting the complex refueling, defueling, and associated maintenance operations for reactor components from U.S. Navy nuclear-powered surface ships at Newport News Shipbuilding, from 1964 to 2016.
The SSSB decommissioning project was a model of interagency coordination. NAVSEA awarded a three-year, $129 million contract for SSSB’s dismantlement and disposal to APTIM Federal Services, LLC, with work accomplished at Alabama Shipyard, LLC.
Under an interagency agreement, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) provided NAVSEA with technical expertise during planning, execution, and termination of the SSSB project, evaluating APTIM’s work plan to ensure workplace safety and to mitigate any potential impacts to the environment or to the public.
Based on NRC’s review and recommendation for approval of the dismantlement work plan, Naval Reactors (also referred to as the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program) transferred custody of SSSB to APTIM for dismantlement on June 10, 2021. SSSB left Hampton Roads on May 19, 2021, and arrived at the Port of Mobile on June 1, 2021, where self-propelled modular transporters moved the 268-foot barge to a land-based facility in the Alabama Shipyard—its final port of call.
Dismantlement and disposal of SSSB concluded in Summer 2023, and on September 30th, the dismantlement site was turned back over to Alabama Shipyard, marking final completion of the project.
PMS 368’s Way Ahead
In the coming months, English said the PMS 368 team will be focused on fleshing out planning and budgeting efforts as well as recruiting and hiring new personnel for the office. Cleveland and English also plan to host an Industry Day on March 6-7 to share information with businesses on opportunities for participating in the dismantlement process.
“The goal for Navy and this office is to be a responsible steward of the environment, while serving the needs of the Fleet and the trust of taxpayers,” Cleveland explained. “It’s full-time work—and a task that must be performed with the utmost respect for the legacy of these amazing warfighting platforms and the crews who served on them.”