A Brief History
On September 30, 1954, the American submarine, USS Nautilus, was commissioned for service as the first ever nuclear powered warship.
Serving the US Navy well until 1980, Nautilus immediately gave the US a tremendous advantage in submarine warfare, with the ability to stay submerged many times longer than conventional diesel-electric submarines that had ruled from World War I through the post-World War II era.
Setting many records and serving as a test bed for the new technology, Nautilus became the first submarine to make a submerged transit under the North Pole, in 1958, a voyage that had to be harrowing!
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, Nautilus set a new standard by which submarine fleets would be judged and any supposed “super-power” would have to have such submarines. Today, every one of the US Navy aircraft carriers are nuclear powered as well.
As you may have guessed, Nautilus was named after the famous fictional submarine in the Jules Verne book, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Question for students (and subscribers): Considering the problems with disposal of used nuclear fuel, should we still have nuclear powered ships? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Goodall, James. Nautilus to Columbia: 70 years of the US Navy’s Nuclear Submarines. Osprey Publishing, 2023.
Seeger, Eric. Underway on Nuclear Power. 50th Anniversary of U.S.S. Nautilus. Faircourt Publications, 2004.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the USS Nautilus (SSN 571) being launched into the Thames River, is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.
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