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CVN-65 Enterprise - Inactivation

The inactivation and defueling process will have major impacts on the structure of the ship. It is not cost-effective to return the ship to a condition that would support it becoming a museum. Additionally, the cost to maintain a ship as a museum is generally cost prohibitive. As the ship is inactivated, equipment that may be of historic interest will be reclaimed and passed on to museums or appropriate Navy commands so ENTERPRISEs many contributions to the nations defense over the past half-century are remembered.

Section 1011 of the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Bill allowed for the temporary reduction in the minimum number of operational aircraft carriers from 11 to 10. Section 1011 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 (Public Law 109-364), amended 10 U.S.C. 5062(b) to reduce the minimum number of operational aircraft carriers from 12 to 11. Deactivation of the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), after 52 years of service, is scheduled to begin in FY 2013; the delivery of her numerical replacement, the CVN 78, is scheduled for FY 2015. The actual duration of this temporary reduction in the carrier force structure will depend on the inactivation date of the ENTERPRISE and the delivery date of the CVN 78. Analysis by the Department of Defense indicates that Combatant Commander-required postures can be maintained throughout this period by accepting marginally increased risk and by carefully managing aircraft carrier maintenance and operating priorities.

The US Navy wanted to decommission its oldest aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) three years early, in 2012. In May 2009 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, CNO Admiral Gary Roughead said "During the period between the planned 2012 inactivation of USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) and the 2015 delivery of GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) legislative relief is needed to temporarily reduce the operational carrier force to 10. Extending ENTERPRISE beyond 2012 involves significant technical risk, challenges manpower and the industrial base, and requires expenditures in excess of $2.8B with a minimal operational return on this significant investment. Extending ENTERPRISE would result in only a minor gain in carrier operational availability and adversely impact carrier maintenance periods and operational availability of the force in the future. The temporary reduction to 10 carriers can be mitigated by adjustments to deployments and maintenance availabilities."

Following the Inactivation Ceremony on December 1, 2012, the Enterprise will remain at Naval Station Norfolk for approximately 6 months to off-load equipment. After the equipment off-load, the ship will move to dock at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipyard (HII-NNSY) for inactivation.

The inactivation phase would last approximately 4 years. As part of the inactivation, hydraulic systems will be drained and expendable materials, tools, spare parts and furnishings would be removed. Additionally, tanks containing oil and other fluids would be drained and cleaned, any hazardous material will be removed, and the ship's electrical and lighting systems would be de-energized. Concurrent with inactivation, the ship would be defueled using the same proven techniques that have been used successfully to refuel and defuel over 350 Naval nuclear-powered warships. The ship would also be prepared to be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS&IMF) in 2016 for dismantlement and recycling.

Under the No-Action Alternative, ENTERPRISE would be placed in waterborne storage following inactivation. This alternative would include work to prepare the ship for indefinite waterborne storage in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner. Storage would only occur at a designated Navy nuclear powered ship inactive storage facility. The only such facility on the west coast is at PSNS & IMF. This facility has the required water depth and area to accommodate ENTERPRISE. An existing facility on the east coast at Norfolk Naval Shipyard is not considered feasible for ENTERPRISE, given the size and deep draft of the ship (requiring 37 feet of depth), dredging required at Norfolk (minimum depths at the facility are under 20 feet), and the need to move the ship to PSNS & IMF for reactor compartment disposal. The LONG BEACH has been in waterborne storage for over 15 years and an extension to the 15-year dry docking was approved.

ENTERPRISE would arrive at PSNS & IMF under Navy tow, already defueled and inactivated. PSNS & IMF would dispose of the reactor compartments and recycle the remnant sections of hull from the ship. ENTERPRISE is similar in size to other aircraft carriers that the shipyard has serviced and has a volume of metal to be processed for complete reactor compartment disposal and remnant hull recycle equal to about 18 submarines on average of the types typically disposed of at the Shipyard.

ENTERPRISE would initially be placed in a large aircraft carrier servicing dry dock to remove structure on top of the ship and a section of the bow. The process of removing the ENTERPRISE reactor compartments from the ship and constructing the packages would be similar to that described for cruisers in 1996. However, ENTERPRISE can only fit into the largest dry dock at PSNS & IMF. This dry dock is normally reserved for active aircraft carrier maintenance and must remain free for that work. To minimize the time required in the large aircraft carrier dry dock, interferences inside the ship in the way of the bow and deck cutting operations could be removed while ENTERPRISE is pier side. A barge may be positioned temporarily next to ENTERPRISE to aid in material removal while it is pier side. In the large aircraft carrier dry dock, the cut areas of hull would be resealed, external surfaces cleaned, and the ship then re-floated into a smaller dry dock better configured for reactor compartment disposal and remnant hull recycle. To facilitate this docking, a number of actions may be taken to guide the hull into the smaller dry dock.

The ENTERPRISE reactor compartments would be separated by cutting through a structural space between the paired reactor compartments. Separating paired reactor compartments for disposal is not new to PSNS & IMF, as this was done for disposal of the pre-LOS ANGELES Class submarine TRITON, which had two reactor compartments that shared a common wall. The scale of this work is larger for ENTERPRISE and will involve additional lead shielding removal and, as was completed for TRITON, the removal of an interfering primary plant.

ENTERPRISE would be dismantled around the reactor compartments to allow for separating and packaging the reactor compartments. The remainder of the ship (remnant hull) would also be dismantled with re-useable metals recycled to allow the separated reactor compartment packages to be moved onto transport barges. At the end of this recycle process, only the packaged reactor compartments would remain in the dry dock.

On May 21, 2014 Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) issued Request for Information (RFI) N00024-14-R-4212 from all potential sources who may be interested in ship dismantling the non-propulsion sections of the inactivated and defueled ex-USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) starting in early Fiscal Year 2017. Ship dismantling methodology using the most cost efficient methods is desired to provide earliest delivery of a propulsion space section to allow transport to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF). The non-propulsion sections are notionally shown herein but can be sectioned as desired by the respondents. As part of the ship dismantling process, watertight transverse bulkheads forming the forward and aft portion of the propulsion space section will be required to be added or existing major structural bulkheads further sealed.

The method of ship dismantling requires identification, control, and disposal of regulated polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) waste, asbestos, and other hazardous materials typical of those used in Navy ship construction in the 1950s per all applicable federal, state, and local regulations.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is the only U.S. facility certified to recycle nuclear ships. It has completed more than 100 jobs since 1990, mostly submarines. Some suggest PSNS might not have the capacity to add the Enterprise work, as it was busy maintaining the Pacific Fleets aircraft carriers and as of 2015 had a frigate and 12 submarines awaiting recycling.

Newport News Shipbuilding claims it is capable of completely disposing of the Enterprise, including the nuclear work. It printed a statement from company spokeswoman Jerri Dickseski: We believe that NNS, working with our SN3 nuclear energy business in partnership that may also include others, possesses the technical expertise and certainly a great knowledge of the ship that, when combined, may offer our Navy customer with a lower-cost option, and we are interested in doing this work, she said.

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