US Navy selects Commercial Dismantlement plan to dismantle and dispose USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

US Navy selects Commercial Dismantlement plan to dismantle and dispose USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

By Dario Leone
Sep 6 2023
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Commercial Dismantlement plan to dismantle and dispose USS Enterprise

The US Navy has made a significant decision regarding the former USS Enterprise (CVN-65): the service has opted for “Alternative 3,” which involves dismantling and disposing of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier using commercial industry expertise, Alert 5 first noted.

This process will take place at one of three potential locations: Newport News, Virginia; Brownsville, Texas; or Mobile, Alabama.

According to the US Navy website, on Sep. 5, 2023, the US Department of the Navy (Navy) released its Record of Decision to select and implement the Preferred Alternative (Commercial Dismantlement) from the Final Associated Naval Reactor Plants Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement EIS/OEIS. Under this alternative, the Navy will contract with commercial industry to dismantle ex-Enterprise, including its defueled reactor plants, and dispose of low-level radiological waste and other hazardous waste at authorized commercial or Department of Energy (DOE) waste disposal facilities. This decision will allow the Navy to reduce the Navy inactive ship inventory, eliminate costs associated with maintaining the ship in a safe stowage condition, and dispose of legacy radiological and hazardous wastes in an environmentally responsible manner, while meeting the operational needs of the Navy.

US Navy selects Commercial Dismantlement plan to dismantle and dispose USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) makes its final voyage to Newport News Shipbuilding. US Navy Photo Courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries

Alternative 3 (Commercial Dismantlement)

The Navy selected Alternative 3 (Commercial Dismantlement) [click here to read the US Navy record of decision featuring Alternative 1, Alternative 2 and Alternative 3 options] because this alternative safely disposes of the ex-Enterprise, including its hazardous materials, in approximately five years as compared to 15 years or more for other analyzed alternatives. Additionally, this alternative will have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, will not require in-water construction work to expand the capacity of the Port of Benton barge slip in Washington state, and will be executed at approximately half the cost to the taxpayer as compared with other alternatives. Finally, this alternative supports the Navy mission by allowing the Navy to focus limited public shipyard resources on priority fleet maintenance. This alternative will not result in any decrease in workforce at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF).

The Navy made this decision after assessment of potential human, natural, and cultural environmental impacts while considering strategic and operational needs, and review of comments from government officials and agencies, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and the public on the proposal and environmental analysis. The Navy does not anticipate significant environmental impacts from the selected alternative with the implementation of protective standard operating procedures, best management practices, and mitigation measures, as described in the Final EIS/OEIS and Record of Decision.

US Navy selects Commercial Dismantlement plan to dismantle and dispose USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Decommissioned nuclear carrier Enterprise (CVN-65) sits pier side at Newport News Shipbuilding following its decommissioning in February 2017.

The USS Enterprise

Commissioned at Newport News, Virginia, on Nov. 25, 1961, USS Enterprise was the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier. Ordered to assist the Project Mercury Program in February 1962, she tracked and measured the flight of the first American orbital spaceflight, Friendship 7. During the Cuban Missile Crisis that October, Enterprise participated in the blockade of Cuba.

Along with USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) and USS Long Beach (CGN-9), she was part of the nuclear-task force, Operation Sea Orbit, from May to October 1964, circumnavigating the globe without refueling. Following this cruise, Enterprise was redesginated CVAN-65 and was deployed in November 1965 for service in the Vietnam War, becoming the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat by utilizing her aircraft against the Viet Cong.

On Jan. 14, 1969, an accident involving an F-4 Phantom II on her flight deck resulted on 27 Sailors killed and 314 injured. After repairs, Enterprise continued to serve off Vietnam until 1973 and assisted in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon, in April 1975.
She was redesignated back to CVN-65 the following year.

E-2 print
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Deactived in 2012

Deployed mainly in the Pacific and Indian oceans during the late 1970s and early 1980s, she entered the Mediterranean in April 1986 to assist in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the bombing of Libya. Two years later, she was assigned to Operation Earnest Will, escorting merchant Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Following a lenghty overhaul, Enterprise returned to sea duty in September 1994 and enforced no-fly zones in Operation Joint Endeavor off Bosnia and Operation Southern Watch over Iraq. In 1998, she successfully attacked Iraqi targets in Operation Desert Fox.

To assist in the war against terrorism, she participated, beginning in 2001, in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and underwent further refurbishments and deployments until deactived in 2012. Enterprise was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on Feb. 3, 2017.

F/A-18F model
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Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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