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An Overview of Nuclear Marine Propulsion

A nuclear submarine is one of the most expensive and sophisticated weapons that a nation can possess. Over the years, their popularity has increased rapidly for the extraordinary advantages they can actually provide.
An Overview of Nuclear Marine Propulsion
US Nuclear Submarines

A nuclear submarine is one of the most expensive and sophisticated weapons that a nation can possess. Over the years, their popularity has increased rapidly for the extraordinary advantages they can actually provide. Nuclear ships/subs depend on fission reaction, which provides enormous energy in respect of conventional diesel or coal-based subs. Today, six nations including the USA, UK, Russia, France, China, India outreach the nuclear submarines.

Fission is a nuclear reaction in which a heavy nucleus splits into smaller fragments when it’s bombarded by fast neutrons; with the release of heat, in a reactor. Most of the reactors are pressurized alongside some liquid sodium-cooled. The reactor, pumps, and steam generators are initially coursed with water. The generated heat from the reactor is used in the primary circuit; consequently, makes the streaming water hot. Then, the water heats up a separate water circuit in the steam generator; the water in the primary circuit is kept in high pressure to avoid boiling. Eventually, the water in the secondary circuit turns into steam before hitting the steam turbines. The turbine generator makes the subs move forward by rotating the propeller. Spent steam at low pressure goes through a condenser cooled via seawater and reinstate in fluid form. The water is pumped back to the steam generator and proceeds with the cycle. The Russian, US, and British naval forces depend on direct steam turbine propulsion, while French and Chinese subs utilize the turbine to create power for the drive (turbo-electric transmission). Russian & USS Triton contains two reactors where others only have a single reactor. The reactor is very unique in relation to land-based reactors like the Rooppur one. It’s very compact, enduring higher stresses, delivering up to 100 MW power where each unit of Rooppur nuclear power plant will produce 1200 MW power. Its mechanical system must function under unfavorable ocean conditions, including vibration, pitching, and rolling of ships. The main fuel is Uranium oxide where U-235 is enriched by 4.6% to 20%. The highly enriched fuel increases the reactor's power density and extends the lifespan, but it becomes costlier and a greater risk to nuclear proliferation than low enriched fuel. The gradual loss of the "nuclear poison" increases the reactivity of the core. The life of the compact reactor pressure vessel is extended by providing an internal neutron shield, which reduces the damage of steel from constant bombardment by neutrons.

The earliest atomic submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), put to the ocean in 1955. The largest nuclear submarines ever built are the 26,500-ton Russian Typhoon class. The smallest nuclear warships to date are the 2,700-ton French Rubis-class attack submarines.

The reducing availability of fossil fuels may cause boundless utilization of marine nuclear drive in not so distant future; keeping mind the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nuclear Ships have likewise gotten analysis as any deficiency in the working can make incomprehensible measures of radiation exposure to marine life and threat to human life within it. Accordingly, cutting edge nuclear subs are more secure and further developed. They have enormous defensive castings to secure the reactors. Through nuclear marine propulsion, submarines can be completely independent of air, as the conventional ones need to surface as often as possible. It can travel long distances with greater load without any kind of pollution.

The fears about crew safety, maintenance, decommissioning expenses, and quality are presently being dense step by step as there is a more noteworthy strain to have improved execution adequacy in nuclear submarines.


1. https://www.marineinsight.com/main-engine/understanding-nuclear-marine-propulsion/

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_marine_propulsion

3. https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/non-power-nuclear-applications/transport/nuclear-powered-ships.aspx

4. https://www.marineinsight.com/tech/nuclear-ship-propulsion-is-it-the-future-of-the-shipping-industry/

5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHIGMSQtF4E

6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UinMiW3rIxY&t=19s

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_submarine