NS Savannah - Present Appearance
Despite the deteriorated condition of the ship's passenger areas, her general appearance and cargo-handling features continue to evoke the dashing ship design seen by millions while she visited international ports. The necessary removal of the nuclear reactor's fuel, and certain other highly radioactive components, does not significantly denude Savannah's integrity.
Despite a modest amount of decay common among deactivated ships, Savannah maintains her historic external appearance. Her sleek white hull, with red and blue detailing, continues to strike an impressive appearance. Internally, however, the ship's integrity has suffered much more. When Savannah discontinued her passenger service in 1965, and operated solely as a cargo ship for another half decade, the passenger spaces were closed. Some of the decorative furnishings and all of the exhibitions were removed at that time. This period of disuse, followed by the deactivation of the entire ship in the early 1970s, cast a pallor of decay on these once attractive public spaces. Much of the specially designed furnishings remain, yet the ship's staterooms, lounges, crew quarters, and facilities have a ransacked and derelict appearance. Nevertheless, these spaces could be restored to their historic appearance.
Savannah's cargo features maintain a higher level of integrity. Even though containerized cargo tie-downs were mounted on the ship's deck during her final years of operation, the storage and cargo handling elements maintain their original appearance and configuration. The Patriots Point Maritime Museum has begun to convert cargo holds into museum display spaces, but this modification could be easily reversed.
Although removal of the reactor was considered, no action was taken because it would require the costly removal of large sections of the ship's structure. The reactor's uranium oxide fuel has been removed, and returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. The radioactive water from the reactor's primary system has been removed, as have certain of the more heavily radioactive elements of the reactor system (such as the ion exchanger). The secondary system's water was also removed. In a 1976 Congressional hearing, it was reported that the total amount of residual radioactivity in the reactor vessel was approximately 60,000 curies, primarily in the form of iron 55 (2.4 year half life) and cobalt 60 (5.2 year half life). These conditions, however, were deemed safe because the reactor remains shielded by concrete and steel, and access to the containment and reactor vessels has been made secure.16 While the reactor could technically be restored to use if these components were replaced, current nuclear operating standards and licensing requirements would make the resurrection of the outdated reactor virtually impossible.
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