All of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, but none of its other surface ships, are nuclear-powered. Some Members of Congress, particularly on the House Armed Services Committee, have expressed interest in expanding the use of nuclear power to a wider array of Navy surface ships, starting with the CG(X), a planned new cruiser that the Navy had wanted to start procuring around FY2017. Section 1012 of the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4986/P.L. 110-181 of January 28, 2008) makes it U.S. policy to construct the major combatant ships of the Navy, including ships like the CG(X), with integrated nuclear power systems, unless the Secretary of Defense submits a notification to Congress that the inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system in a given class of ship is not in the national interest.
The Navy studied nuclear power as a design option for the CG(X), but did not announce whether it would prefer to build the CG(X) as a nuclear-powered ship. On December 7, 2009, it was reported that the Navy wants to cancel the CG(X) program and instead procure an improved version of the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class Aegis destroyer, which is a conventionally powered ship.
A 2006 Navy study concluded the following, among other things:
• In constant FY2007 dollars, building a Navy surface combatant or amphibious ship with nuclear power rather than conventional power would add roughly $600 million to $800 million to its procurement cost.
• The total life-cycle cost of a nuclear-powered medium-size surface combatant would equal that of a conventionally powered medium-size surface combatant if the cost of crude oil averages $70 per barrel to $225 per barrel over the life of the ship.
• Nuclear-power should be considered for near-term applications for medium-size surface combatants.
• Compared to conventionally powered ships, nuclear-powered ships have advantages in terms of both time needed to surge to a distant theater of operation for a contingency, and in terms of operational presence (time on station) in the theater of operation.
In assessing whether the future Navy surface ships (in addition to aircraft carriers) should be nuclear-powered, Congress may consider a number of issues, including cost, operational effectiveness, ship construction, ship maintenance and repair, crew training, ports calls and forward homeporting, and environmental impact.
FY2010 defense authorization act: The House Armed Services Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 111-166 of June 18, 2009) on the FY2010 defense authorization bill (H.R. 2647), stated that it “remains committed to the direction” of Section 1012 of the FY2008 defense authorization act. The FY2010 defense authorization bill (S. 1390) as reported by the Senate Armed Services Committee (S.Rept. 111-35 of July 2, 2009) contained a provision (Section 1012) that would repeal Section 1012 of the FY2008 defense authorization act. The conference report (H.Rept. 111-288 of October 7, 2009) on the FY2010 defense authorization act (H.R. 2647/P.L. 111-84 of October 28, 2009) did not contain a provision repealing or amending Section 1012 of the FY2008 defense authorization act.
Date of Report: December 23, 2009
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL33946
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