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Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program

What is the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program?

The Program has cradle-to-grave responsibility for all naval nuclear propulsion matters and includes our civilian and military personnel who design, build, operate, maintain, and manage the nuclear-powered ships and other facilities of the U.S. nuclear-powered naval Fleet.

Program responsibilities are delineated in Presidential Executive Order 12344 of Feb. 1, 1982, and prescribed by Public Laws 98-525 of Oct. 19, 1984 (42 USC 7158), and 106-65 of Oct. 5, 1999 (50 USC 2406).

Program elements include:

Research, Development, and Support Laboratories

We are government owned/contractor operated and manage research and engineering facilities devoted solely to naval nuclear propulsion work. With nearly 8,000 engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel, our mission is to develop the most advanced naval nuclear propulsion technology and to provide technical support for the continued safe, reliable operation of all existing naval reactors. We operate a prototype nuclear propulsion plant in New York for the operational testing of new designs and promising new technologies under typical operating conditions before introducing them to the Fleet.

We also examine naval spent nuclear fuel and irradiated test specimens at our facility in Idaho. The data derived from these examinations is used to develop new technology and to improve the cost-effectiveness of existing designs.

Nuclear Component Procurement Organization

Since the late 1950s, our Program has had dedicated prime contractor support to provide engineering, procurement, and technical oversight of naval nuclear components. The prime contractor is Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. (BPMI), with locations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Schenectady, New York.

BPMI is responsible for the design, purchase, quality control, and delivery of major propulsion plant components for installation in nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, submarines, and prototype plants.

Schools and Training Facilities

Our unique training requirements are met by special purpose training facilities with highly qualified instructors (military and Naval Nuclear Laboratory personnel). These facilities include moored training ships and a land-based prototype, which provide hands-on training so that all operators have qualified on an operating naval nuclear propulsion plant before their first sea tour.


Our Program headquarters provide oversight and direction for all Program elements. Given the highly complex nature of nuclear technology, all major technical decisions (design, procurement, operations, maintenance, training, and logistics) are made by a Headquarters staff expert in nuclear technology. Engineers set standards and specifications for all Program work, while onsite representatives monitor the work at the laboratories, prototypes, shipyards, and prime contractors.

Based on nearly seven decades of engineering experience in nuclear propulsion, the Headquarters organization exercises exacting control over all aspects of the Program, demanding technical excellence and unparalleled discipline.

Support Facilities and Tenders

Fleet Intermediate Maintenance Activities (deployed tenders and support facilities at major bases) perform maintenance and repair on nuclear-powered ships outside of major shipyard availability periods. These facilities’ specially trained personnel provide upkeep and resupply support for the Fleet.

The tenders are themselves seagoing naval vessels that routinely perform their missions while deployed all over the world. The ability of the nuclear-powered Fleet to remain on station is further enhanced by our ability to forward-deploy repair and maintenance activities.


Two private shipyards build all U.S. nuclear-powered ships. Together with four public shipyards, they provide the nation’s capability to overhaul, repair, refuel, and inactivate nuclear-powered ships. These complicated tasks require an experienced and skilled workforce specifically trained to do naval nuclear propulsion work. With approximately 50,000 employees, these six shipyards are unique industrial assets with capabilities found nowhere else in the U.S. We provide on-site representatives at each of the shipyards to monitor and support naval nuclear propulsion work.

Shipyard Sector Location
Electric Boat Private Groton, CT
Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Portsmouth, VA
Newport News Shipbuilding Private Newport News, VA
Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility Public Pearl Harbor, HI
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Public Kittery, ME
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility Public Bremerton, WA