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N/S Enrico Fermi

The Americans did not much like the nuclear ambitions of the Italian Navy. The first result was a change of the "nuclear program". And in fact Andreotti, on September 18, 1963 in Parliament spoke of the commitment 'to provide a of nuclear-powered surface unit, a first step towards the construction of the atomic submarine, which remains the ultimate goal.

The most fierce opponent of nuclear program "made in Italy" was Admiral Hyman Rickover, American creator of atomic submarines. The strongest American opposition to the U.K.-Canadian SSN deal within DOE came from Naval Reactors, which wanted no part of any nuclear propulsion transfer deal. For DOE the issues were simple. For Italy to build nuclear powered ships, large amounts of sensitive classified nuclear propulsion technology would have to be transferred to the Italian government and industry. The question was would it be protected? Second, Italy did not have the critically important technology infrastructure which Naval Reactors knew was necessary for the safe application of naval nuclear propulsion. Their greatest concern, one shared by all in DOE and DOD, was that a reactor accident aboard an Italian ship using US-design nuclear technology could severely damage public confidence in the safety of all nuclear vessels, severely curtailing the operational freedom and port access of the U.S. Navy, 40% of whose vessels were nuclear.

In 1964, Andreotti told the Corriere della Sera that the original design of submarine passed to the notion of a civilian-military nuclear propulsion would call Enrico Fermi. Also there were presented the technical data: 18,000 tons, 174-175 meters long and a speed of 20 knots. A 80 MW reactor would provide the power for use on board, including 22,000 hp required for propulsion. Also for this project was, however, requires a minimum of cooperation on the part of Nations already in the possession of nuclear knowhow is essential to achieve naval installations of this power. Rickover denied even this plan. The Italians then turned to the French, with whom since 1961 there was a collaborative project for the production of enriched uranium at Pierrelatte. But Americans put out their hand and nothing came of it. Hopes grow in this direction were again disregarded, while the failure of the first experiences of the exercise of the nuclear-powered merchant made by some Western countries eventually persuaded the Navy to abandon their ambitions in the field.

In 1966, the then Defence Minister, Social Democrat Tremelloni tried diplomatically to extol above all civilian aspects of the nuclear research, but Andreotti the froze: "Galileo's telescope was also born as a military store clerk, but humanity has had immense benefits." The real political problem was to convince Americans to remove the veto. It is in this context that the arrangements for granting the Use of the base of the Maddalena. Almost a sort of "gift" to soften certain positions of distrust. Nothing doing: the Americans in return passed to Italy some conventional submersibles in divestiture.

As the result of the collaboration between CNEN [Comitato Nafcionale Energia Nucleare - Italian Committee for Nuclear Energy] and the Italian Navy, the "Enrico Fermi" a logistic support ship of 18,000 tons, was to be constructed, powered by an 80 MWt PWR. The end of 1969 coincided with the terminal phase of CNEN's second five-year plan. In the course of this second Five-Year Plan, important work was done in the field of reactors of ship propulsion, as a result of the activities of a Committee of Fxperts formed with the sponsorship of CNEN and composed of representatives of the various industrial sectors and governement agencies concerned. An agreement between CNEN and the Italian Navy has then resulted in the overcoming of the last obstacles to the launching of a programme for the building of a Naval logistic support ship, powered by a piessurized-water reactor.

Italy had undertaken studies for the construction of its first nuclear shzp (the Enrico Fermi) on the basis of a co-operation agreement between the CDEN (National Committee for Nuclear Energy) end the National Defense Mirustry - Military Navy (Rome, 9th December 1966). This project concerned a "pilot ship" rather than a mercantile one, whose traveiling, once it is commissioned, might give rise to serious legal problems also connected with the ship's special characteristics.

The FIAT forwarded an offer for the nuclear power system and in 1970 it was considered that definition of the industrial agreement would be reached very soon. Over ninetly percent of the nuclear plant components, including all the internal reactor parts, will be built by the national industry. CNEN would obviously have responsibility for the more strictly nuclear aspects of the project, including the critical experiment which will be completed in the next days at the CNEN Casaccia Center, while the Italian Navy will handle the building of thr vessel.

The Enrico Fermi logistic support ship, was to have an 18,000 ton displacement, and the power plant, with an 80 MWt IWR, will have a 22,000 SHP power and a maximum speed of 20 knots. With the definition of industrial contracts, times may be apeeded up and in 1970 it was considered that the ship will be at sea by 1972/3. The overall project cost was estimated at about 35 million dollars.

About 40 firms had full capability in manufacturing equipment for nuolear installations (both power stations and fuel - fabrication or reprocessing - facilities). Of them, six companies qualify as "general contractors" for the construction of complete plants, acting also as "chef de file" of consortia or groups with possible connections with international manufacturers. Three of these were public concerns: Snam Progetti of Sandonato Milanese, as company in the field for the ENI State Group, Ansaldo Meccanico Nucleare of Genao, as the leading company for the IRI-Finmeccanica State Group and Breda-Termomecanica & Locomotive of Milan as leading company for the EFIM State Group. The other three are private concerns: Montecatini Edison, which had concentrated the experience of Edison in the construction of the Trino Veroellese plant, the activities undertaken by the nuclear section of Montecatini and SNIA Viscoaa of Bombrinl Parodi-Delfino, the chemical company active in the construction for CNEN of the fuel plants EUREX and PCUT, and FIAT of Turin whose activities in the nuolear field include also the construction of the reactor for the Italian nuclear ship Enrico Fermi.

Methods had been formulated to treat the rod cluster control for present-generation pressurized water reactors within the computational codes available at Comitato Nazionale per l'Energia Nucleare (CNEN) for light water reactors. The reliability of these procedures had been verified by comparing the calculated results with the most significant experimental data available from measurements performed by the Centre d'Etude de l'Energie Nucleaire-Studiecentrum Voor Kernenergie (Belgian Plutonium Recycling Program), Babcock and Wilcox (Lumped Burnable Poison Program), Westinghouse, and CNEN (Italian Nuclear Ship Propulsion Program).

Italy was planning to rent two tons of enriched uranium from France for the reactor of its first nuclear ship, the Enrico Fermi. By 1971 this project was in abeyance.






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