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History of Nuclear Power in the Navy

On Jan. 17,1955, the first nuclear powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN 571 ), put to sea for the first time and signaled her historic message "Underway on nuclear power." On her shakedown cruise Nautilus steamed submerged 1,300 miles from New London, CT, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 84 hours, the first time a submarine had maintained a high submerged speed for longer than one hour. After operating on nuclear power for more than two years and covering 62,562 miles (submerged more than half the time), Nautilus was refueled. A diesel-powered submarine would have used more than 2 million gallons of fuel oil during that period. The success of Nautilus ensured the future of nuclear power in the Navy.

The world's first nuclear-powered surface warship, the guided missile cruiser USS Long Beach (CGN 9), was commissioned Sept. 9, 1961. Two months later, USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was commissioned as the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Her first refueling occurred three years later after steaming more than 207,000 miles, equal to more than eight trips around the world.

The Nuclear Navy reached a memorable milestone Nov. 11, 1981, when the largest and most powerful U.S. submarine ever built, USS Ohio (SSBN 726), was commissioned. Ohio was the first ship of her class, more commonly known as the Trident submarine. Nuclear-powered ships in the U.S. fleet now include aircraft carriers (CVNs), attack submarines (SSNs) and fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).

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