The Savannah is a signature element of President Eisenhower's visionary Atoms for Peace program. It was constructed as a joint project of the former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Maritime Administration (then part of the U.S. Department of Commerce). Among its primary purposes were to demonstrate the peaceful uses of atomic power; to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear-powered merchant ships; and to develop the maritime infrastructure (e.g., liability and insurance, port security and emergency response, shipyard maintenance and repair, etc.) necessary for subsequent nuclear-powered merchant ships. It accomplished these objectives, and all others that were laid out for it, very satisfactorily.
The Savannah operated from 1962 to 1965 in demonstration service. In 1965 the AEC issued a commercial operating license to the Savannah; License Number NS-1 and ended its participation in the joint program – reverting to the singular role of regulator. The Savannah continued in experimental service as a cargo ship until 1970, after which it was removed from service; was de-fueled in 1971; and its reactor made permanently inoperable in 1975-76. About 95% of the power plant is intact and remains onboard the ship. The Savannah is still licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, successor to the AEC), and will remain so until the nuclear facilities are dismantled, removed from the ship, and properly disposed – a regulated process collectively known as Decommissioning. For more information about decommissioning, please scroll down to the Related Links section.
The Savannah was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It was named an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1983. It was named a Nuclear Engineering Landmark by the American Nuclear Society in 1991. In recognition of the Savannah's exceptional national significance to the nuclear and maritime heritages of the United States, it was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service on July 17, 1991.
The Savannah is presently located in the Port of Baltimore, Maryland, under a long-term layberth contract with Canton Marine Terminals. The Savannah Technical Staff of the Office of Ship Disposal manages the activities onboard the ship, with strong emphasis on licensed facility operations and pre-decommissioning planning. The Maritime Administration intends to maintain the Savannah in protective storage for some years into the future; however, under current law and regulation the decommissioning process must be completed and the Savannah's operating license terminated no later than December 2031.