Six years after decommissioning USS Enterprise, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the U.S. Navy is still figuring out how to safely dismantle the ship. The General Accounting Office estimates the cost of taking apart the vessel and sending the reactors to a nuclear waste storage facility at up to $1.5 billion, or about one-eighth the cost of a brand-new aircraft carrier.
The USS Enterprise was commissioned in 1961 to be the centerpiece of a nuclear-powered carrier task force, Task Force One, that could sail around the world without refueling. The fleet was a symbol of the Navy’s global reach and its nuclear future. During its 51 years in operation, the Enterprise served in the Cuban Missile Crisis blockade, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.