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  U.S. Navy Museum Cold War Gallery Technology for the Nuclear Age
Nuclear Propulsion

Under the direction of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the navy developed nuclear reactors to power its fleet after World War II. Thorough scientific and operational testing ensured the efficiency and safety of this new propulsion source. The nation's Cold War industrial capacity enabled the navy to commission 168 submarines, nine cruisers, and six aircraft carriers - all nuclear-powered. The ability of these fleet units to operate around the globe for long periods of time was a major factor in containing the Soviet naval threat.

Quote from Admiral Rickover
Virtual Walkthrough


Built by the Electric boat division of the General dynamics Corporation and propelled by two nuclear reactors, made history when she circled the globe submerged from February 16 to May 10, 1960. The voyage covered 36,000 miles and followed the route blazed by Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. Click the image below to see the route followed by USS Triton on her 1960 circumnavigation of the globe.

click image below to see a map of the route.

Triton voyage map
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Educational Videos

play videoThe Nuclear Navy (released 1967):  This 1967 Navy documentary explores the development of nuclear power in the United States Navy. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section UMO-2.

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