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ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 1986
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
NavAL NUCLEAR PROPULSION PROGRAM STATEMENT OF ADM. KINNAIRD R. MCKEE, U.S. NAVY, DIRECTOR, NAVAL - NUCLEAR PROPULSION PROGRAM
OPENING REMARKS Chairman HATFIELD. The hearing will please come to order. I apologize for being late. I was taught in the Navy to hurry up and wait, and to be on time and punctual. (Laughter.]
Admiral MCKEE. We used the time to good advantage.
Chairman HATFIELD. Good. It has been so many years, I guess I have lost the training.
Admiral MCKEE. I bet you haven't
Chairman HATFIELD. The purpose of this hearing today is to hear the testimony on the fiscal year 1987 budget proposal for Atomic Energy Defense Activities within the Department of Energy.
Our first witness will be Adm. Kinnaird R. McKee, Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
Later, we will hear from Admiral Foley, General Davis, and General Abrahamson regarding nuclear weapons programs of DOE.
On behalf of the committee, I welcome you, Admiral, and the rest of the witnesses today. We are very happy to have you here and we will have your entire statement printed in the record. We would invite you to summarize it as you will or to highlight it as you wish.
So, Admiral, please proceed.
Admiral McKee. I will take advantage of your offer to put my statement in the record. I would like to go right into describing my activities and my budget.
I have with me three people from my staff: a naval architect and two controllers.
Chairman HATFIELD. Would you give us their names for the record?
Admiral MCKEE. Yes, sir. They are Mark Forssell, Tim Foster, and Gary Olson.
Chairman HATFIELD. We are very happy to have you gentlemen accompany the admiral.
Admiral MCKEE. All right, sir, I will give you an overview of my program-where it stands today, how I intend to use the money, and to what purpose during the next fiscal year.
RESPONSIBILITIES As you know, Senator, I have a cradle-to-grave responsibility for all aspects of naval nuclear propulsion.
We develop the propulsion plant, follow ship construction and operation, train the people, and, in the end, we dispose of the reactor compartment. Every step of the way is our responsibility and this is a summary of those responsibilities.
I won't dwell on all of them but I will discuss several which I think are important issues today. One is reactor safety and the second is control of radiation and radioactivity. I deal with very large amounts of radiation and radioactivity. The whole idea is to keep it in the plant. I will also talk about my research and development and the work I am doing in design getting ready for the new submarine.
REACTOR SAFETY Perhaps the largest vulnerability that my program has is its excellent safety record. It makes things look too easy. Over some 30-odd years of operation we have yet to have a reactor accident. We have yet to have any release of radioactivity that has affected the quality of the environment or the people, and the annual amount of radioactivity we put in all the harbors we use is less than 0.002 of a curie.
Senator, you could put what we release to any harbor in your glass of water and drink it and it wouldn't hurt you. That is from any harbor, which may have as many as 20 or 30 submarines in it.
To put that in perspective, and I think a perspective is needed once again, because it sounds too glib and too easy. (Deleted.]
Chairman HATFIELD. Excuse me, Admiral. Let me just make clear for the record that everyone in the room has the required security clearances.
Admiral McKEE. Yes sir; my three guys have.
Our nuclear ships have over 65 million miles and we have trained 66,000 operators. Yet, this is really a pretty small outfit.
The nuclear navy at the present time includes 157 ships, with 28 ships authorized and under construction. The additional ships are submarines and aircraft carriers. As you know, we are not building nuclear-powered cruisers at present.
To give you a fiscal perspective on that, most of those ships are submarines.
Of the total defense budget, submarines are about 5 percent and that includes the Trident and Poseidon ships. The platforms for the entire sea-based strategic deterrent represents about less than 3 percent of the defense budget. We think that is a bargain.
In specific terms of my Energy Department budget that I am presenting to you today, we are about 5 percent of the DOE budget. So we are a relatively small operation.
I chose this year to look at my work in financial terms more than I normally do. I pay a lot of attention to good stewardship, but it occurred to me, as I considered some of the pressures that I have to deal with, what really are my tasks.
We have a major investment in the nuclear navy. Even though the percentages are small, we have well over $100 billion dollars invested in these nuclear-powered warships. They represent 40 percent of the combat ships in the Navy.
We must protect that investment. One mistake, one accident, or even the perception of an accident would change the entire character of the Navy.
So I have two jobs. First, I have to protect that investment by making sure that I continue to man the ships with people who can operate them. And remember, we are in the hands of very young men, Senator.
The enlisted men running these reactors are recent high school graduates. These are not people with advanced degrees. The officers have college degrees but not the guy that actually does the work. Most of the people in my program are high school graduates.
We also have to overhaul and repair the ships for a reasonable amount of money. A significant amount of our research and development goes into making sure that our existing ships continue to operate successfully.
We designed these ships to go for 20 years. We currently have been told to take them to 30 years and to take the surface ships as far as 45 .years. So to do that requires a lot of research and development, particularly in materials that you would not expect to find
The rest of our work is in the business of enhancement. We can't just live forever with what we have now. We have to continue to grow and that requires research and development and procurement in new classes of submarines and, particularly important, folding the operating experience that we have now into new developments so that we can operate more safely and more effectively. That is the prologue.
NAVAL NUCLEAR PROPULSION WORK I will not spend a lot of time in detail on the work that I have to do in 1987 as you are familiar with it. Those are our significant efforts. Operating reactor support involves the work we have to do to make sure that we continue to operate safely and effectively.
Reactor performance improvement includes part of that, plus new developments for new applications as does component improvement.
Material development is a critical element of all of the work we do. The materials that we put in these reactors operate in a heavy radiation environment for as long as 20 years, [deleted] and we can't go in and fix them. Once they become irradiated, we can't touch them. So we have to do it right the first time and that puts a heavy load on material development and certification.
ADVANCED REACTOR CONCEPTS Now, I will talk about the fuel factory, the prototypes, the watercooled breeder, and the advanced work.
You authorized the money to build a second fuel factory. You may have read that our single fuel factory in Tennessee has been having lots of labor problems in the last year. The company just solved those and they are back in production, but it was a farsighted action on your part to give us the money to build a second factory. We would not be in a position to get fuel today had this not been done. The new fuel factory down at the Savannah River site will come on the line this year on time and within cost.
I also have a responsibility for prototype reactors ashore. These are the equivalent of a seagoing reactor, but ashore for research and development. They were built in advance of the first shipboard plant and continue in use for fundamental research and development and training.
They range in age from 10 to 33 years.
Admiral McKEE. I don't have a breeder reactor anymore, Senator. The breeder reactor was an experiment to prove that you could breed in the light water environment. That was a civilian project that had nothing to do with nuclear-powered ships.
We did that as an experiment overlaid on the Shippingport experiment Admiral Rickover did. The Shippingport was the first commercial powerplant. We finished the light water breeder experiment and we are in the final stages of wrapping it up now.
Our program has had a responsibility in the civilian side almost from the beginning. Much of the commercial nuclear technology that is in place today came from our program, but we are getting out of that business.
The point is, with these old prototype reactors we have to spend a lot of money to keep them operating safely. They are very valuable test facilities. As luck would have it, virtually all need refuelings or overhauls in this 10-year period, where only two of them had to be refueled in the last 10 years. That consumed a good bit of our resources.
To give you an idea of what I mean, we have to do eight major servicings and quite a number of interim overhauls. It is a lot of work and it is not inexpensive.
MOORED TRAINING SHIP DEMONSTRATION We will be retiring the first prototype. It is out in Idaho, Senator. It will go out of commission in the late 1980's and will be replaced by the moored training ship Demonstration.
What we have done is use one of the Poseidon submarines which came off the line for SALT.
We have cut it in half to take the missile compartment out. We are going to put it back together to use as a floating training facility to do the same sorts of training evolutions that we have been doing with the Nautilus prototype all these years. We will save a lot of money by doing it that way.
LIGHT WATER BREEDER PROGRAM The Light Water Breeder Program you asked about is in the final stages. It has been defueled. The Shippingport site has been turned over to other parts of DOE for cleanup. We are working out at the naval reactors facility in Idaho to prove that breeding did occur. That is the essential element of the experiment and we are documenting it all so it will be ready for industry to use.
To give you an idea of the funding aspects of it, I will give you a perspective. The whole program costs less than 1 year of funding for the liquid metal breeder work at its height. So it is not a big program by contemporary standards.
To give you a reference, the remaining cost represents about 2 percent of the money we have spent since the program started. This is what is left to do and we will finish in 1987.
NEW ATTACK SUBMARINE Our major programmatic effort is the advanced fleet reactor. This is the new reactor for the new SSN-21 submarine. That is what I brought these models in for. That is a model of the new Soviet submarine Akula, and I will talk a little bit about it.
This is the [deleted] submarine they have [deleted] put to sea and I brought a 3-D model because it is important to get that perspective to compare it. We have always been accused of building big submarines while they build little ones. This is theirs. That is our 688-class submarine. Theirs is much bigger.
The new submarine we are getting ready to build will look like this model. That is the boat I am going to talk about.
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