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the Royal Navy and Nuclear Propulsion?

JFC Fuller

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As is mentioned in Vanguard to Trident UK research into Nuclear Propulsion into warships was suspended in late 1952. My question is were there any plans up to that point to use Nuclear propulsion in surface warships. Obviously specific plans are unlikely to have existed but with work on the technique underway surely there were some studies and proposals?

Thank you in advance sealordlawrence

I have also posted this at the never were warships forum.
 

uk 75

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Sealord

I can recommend a book called British Seapower by Desmond Wettern
published in the 80s and out of print,but available in some libraries and
on Amazon.

DW mentions the RN's interest in nuclear power in a number of places.
Basically it seems to have flirted with fitting a nuclear reactor on a large ship such as an RFA rather than on a combat unit. The latter was considered in connection with CVA 01 and escort ships but rejected as too expensive and risky (at the time only the USN operated one carrier and escorts with nuclear power and results were mixed).

There is reputed to be a model of a proposed RFA with nuclear power in the collection at Greenwich. I was told that this had come from someone's office in the MOD. I have never been able to see it (it may still be classified knowing the UK). Interestingly an early 60s article in Airfix magazine shows drawings done by the UK Atomic Energy Authority of a nuclear power plant for fitting in large ships like tankers and merchants. The drawing looks pretty much like those for the US Savannah. According to the Wettern book the RFA was looked at until the mid60s and then dies. This is also referred to in a recent book about RFAs that came out last year.

Hope this helps

UK 75
 

hole in the ground

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Nuclear propulsion was indeed considered for CVA 01. However nuclear power limits the number of 'friendly' ports that it would be able to use.
It must also be noted that oil was 'considerably' cheaper at the time that power plants were being designed.
 

JFC Fuller

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Hammer Birchgrove said:
So Royal Navy's Trident submarines have reactors of US design, right?

Wrong; The only UK submarine to have used a US designed reactor was the long since retired HMS Dreadnought.
 

JohnR

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Vanguard has Rolls Royce designed PWR2 which is also being fitted to the Astutes.
 

Abraham Gubler

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hole in the ground said:
Nuclear propulsion was indeed considered for CVA 01. However nuclear power limits the number of 'friendly' ports that it would be able to use.
It must also be noted that oil was 'considerably' cheaper at the time that power plants were being designed.

AFAIK on the only ports rejecting nuclear powered ships are in New Zealand. And this only started in the 1980s. The real issue was cost.

Bear in mind that the kind of reactor needed for a surface ship (carrier or cruiser) is much more powerful than those needed for submarines. For example from the 1960s the S5W reactor (submarine) only produced 11MW of power compared to the A4W of the Nimitz class carrier that produces 95 MW and the D2G of the Bainbridge cruiser that produced 22 MW.

The point being HM Govt. would have had to spend a lot more money designing new carrier and cruiser sized reactors on top of that being spent on a submarine reactor. If the Rolls-Royce PWR-1 (the British submarine reactor of the 1960-80s) was to be used in the CVA-01 it would have needed nine of them. Which would have required a much larger ship just to fit the reactors (hence more reactors to generate the power needed..).
 

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