Posted September 07, 2018 07:12:37A few months ago, the Navy announced it would be cutting back on nuclear power generation by a quarter in 2019.
That announcement followed the announcement that the Navy was moving the largest nuclear submarine construction project in the world, the USS Bonhomme Richard, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Newport News, Virginia, after nearly two decades of construction.
In a recent interview with Ars Technic, retired Lt.
Gen. John F. Kelly, former deputy commander of the Navy Nuclear Regulatory Commission, described the decision to shift Bonhommes Richard to Newport as a “mistake.”
Kelly said the decision came after several years of work on the project.
The Bonhommers Richard is the largest single-unit nuclear power station built in the United States, and Kelly says the move to Newport will help ensure the Navy avoids a repeat of the disaster in 2009 that caused the loss of one of the largest offshore nuclear reactors in the country.
In that disaster, a massive fire broke out at a nuclear reactor in Portsmouth, England, and resulted in the shutdown of the plant for months.
Kelly told Ars he was “horrified” to learn about the Newport construction, and said it’s “very unfortunate” that it happened in Portsmouth.
Kelly said he was told Bonhommen would be moved to Newport “shortly” after completing work on a new vessel, but it hasn’t happened yet.
A report from the U.K.’s Independent, however, suggests that Newport may not be ready for the Bonhommer anytime soon.
A spokesperson for Newport Naval Shipyard, which owns the Bonammen, told Ars that the project is expected to begin “in the fall” and is currently scheduled for completion in 2021.
The spokesperson also confirmed that the new Bonammer has “an independent safety engineer working on it” and that the ship’s crew are “expected to receive training for it” in the coming weeks.
The ship is expected “to be ready by the end of 2021.”
A Navy spokesperson did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment about why Newport has not yet received Bonhommmer work.
Kelly also told Ars in the interview that he’s concerned about the impact of the Newport nuclear project on the Navy.
“The Newport nuclear plant is now in operation, but if the Navy is planning to move forward with the Bonhammer, the Newport plant is not,” Kelly said.
“If Newport does move forward, there’s going to be problems.”
Kelly is also concerned about what will happen if Bonhomms Richard goes into operation.
“I think the Bonmans are going to have to be used more often than they’ve been used, and I think they’ll be much more expensive to maintain,” he said.
As a result, he said, “they’re going to need more crews.”