Shipping out on nuclear power

Looking back on some of the maritime landmarks of 1959, The Engineer settled first on USS Long Beach, the world’s first nuclear-powered surface fighting ship and the first surface ship to be armed with a battery of guided missiles.

‘She has a displacement of 14,000 tons, an overall length of 721ft and a beam of 73ft,’ according to the magazine. ‘Her armament will consist almost entirely of guided missiles. She will also carry electronics devices and weapons for destroying submarines. Her main machinery comprises two Westinghouse Electric Corporation pressuriser water-cooled nuclear reactors and a two-shaft arrangement of General Electric Company geared turbines.

The same year also saw the launch of what was, for a time, the world’s largest and most powerful submarine: USS Triton. ‘Built by General Dynamics, she is the United States Navy’s first submarine to be powered with two nuclear reactors,’ said the article. ‘As the first nuclear-powered radar picket submarine, she is designed to serve as an early-warning station for US Navy task forces and to keep up with the fastest aircraft carriers and destroyers. With a displacement of 5,900 tons standard and 80,000 tons submerged, she has an overall length of 447ft and a beam of 37ft. Her two water-cooled reactors and geared turbines turning two shafts give her a speed of 30 knots. She is armed with six 21in torpedo tubes and costs USD100m.’

After a distinguished career that included the first submerged circumnavigation of the Earth, the Triton was eventually decommissioned in 1969.