Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Virginia-Class Sub Pictures

The press availability accompanying the delivery of PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778) to the Navy provides an opportunity for all of us Submariners no longer on active duty to check out all the bells and whistles. This article has a lot of good (albeit small) pictures, and this one has a fairly good picture of the Weapons Launch Console in the Torpedo Room:

The Seawolf-class boats I'm familiar with have something similar; the best part is that you can just push icons on the screens to move weapons around the room and into the tubes without any application of muscle-power at all. What do you old TMs think of this development in submarining?

When Nerds Attack

Due to a combination of work and school schedules this week, were weren't able to get to the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle like the boys and I did last year. Since PAX is attended by several tens of thousands geeks and nerds, however, they're good at posting timely reports on YouTube, so we can kind of pretend we're there. As expected, it looks like a highlight of the first day was the Jonathan Coulton concert; check out this video of JoCo performing "Re: Your Brains":

Yes, nerds can get into good songs as much (or more) than anyone else!

Submarine Song -- Out In The Wild

G-Man over at USS Dolphin has discovered that what many submariners have feared would happen has come to pass -- the sacred "Submarine Song" has been posted on YouTube (very, very Bad Word warning):

I guess I knew it had to happen someday. I don't blame these Submariners for posting it -- it's important that our heritage be recorded for posterity. That being the case, I should point out that this version is normally the one you "sing" when there are skimmers in the bar and you want them to punch you. (Remember: Don't sing it to skimmers unless they outnumber you by less than 2:1 -- while all Submariners can beat up two skimmers at a time, it gets dicier when it's 3 on 1.) The normal version chanted when there are just Submariners present ends thusly: "...gobble gobble goo; we're Submariners, who the f___ are you?"

Another Submarine secret goes by the wayside. Since it's not tactically important, I guess I'm OK with it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sen. McCain Picking Idaho Native For VP?

It looks like Sen. McCain might be making a bold selection for Vice President in picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. She apparently has good conservative credentials and seems to be very pro-drilling, but the choice kind of throws out any "experience" advantage Sen. McCain might have had. (On the other hand, it didn't matter for the first President Bush in running Dan Quayle against Lloyd Bentsen.)

Gov. Palin was born in Idaho, and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1987, so this probably locks up Idaho's electoral votes for the GOP. (/sarcasm) Still, I can't help but seeing a little bit of a Geraldine Ferraro effect in her selection. I'm still backing Sen. McCain (identity politics-wise, I really have no choice, with a retired Navy officer running with someone with Idaho connections), but I think he could have made a better choice. Having someone go from former small-town mayor to being one heartbeat away from the Presidency in two years is a little extreme, IMHO.

Update 1314 29 Aug: While Gov. Palin might not be the best choice from a political standpoint, I think it's absolutely great from the perspective of looking at who would bring out the most humorous reactions from others. As someone who thinks both candidates for President are acceptable (for very different reasons), I'm not as interested in the results this time as I am in the process. I'm excited to find out many completely absurd statements can be made in the shortest time. Will it be the "social conservatives" tripping over themselves to say that they've always thought it was perfectly fine for the mother of young children to be working outside the home? Or will it be the DUmmies and KOSsacks who end up saying ridiculous things the Obama campaign will eventually have to condemn? (The best one I've seen so far: This DU thread discussing the likelihood that Gov. Palin didn't really have her 5th child, but that it's really her teenage daughter's.)

Mainstream Democrats will be trapped by their own fear of appearing to speak badly of any person belonging to a "minority" group (for fear of offending others of that minority) that Sen. Biden may end up pulling his punches in the VP debate. I look forward most, however, to Democrats who won't have any problem wondering how any woman could ever choose to have so many kids (especially those with disabilities) and making snide little jokes about "I bet McCain can't wait to drill Palin". I expect 9 weeks of absurdity galore!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778) Delivered

Barely five years after the contract to build her was issued, the Virginia-class submarine New Hampshire was delivered to the Navy earlier today -- $40 million under budget. An impressive performance by all involved, but those involved in the well-deserved backslapping have to be careful not to make their claims too extravagant. From this article in Foster's Daily Democrat:
Eight months ahead of schedule and $40 million under budget, the New Hampshire will officially be turned over to the Navy today at a special shipyard ceremony held in Groton, Conn.
The New Hampshire is the nation's newest and most advanced nuclear attack submarine and the fifth ship of the Virginia Class.
Will Lennon, vice president of General Dynamics Electric Boat, said the submarine is a prime example of how dedicated and experienced his workforce is when it comes to delivering first-rate submarines to the U.S. Navy...
...The New Hampshire marks the third Virginia Class submarine that Electric Boat has delivered, and is by far the cheapest and fastest submarine built in modern times, said Lennon.
[Emphasis mine] That last part's not in quotes, so I'm going to assume that the EB VP was actually saying it was the most quickly-built submarine of "modern times", and not the "fastest". Clearly, it's not anywhere near as fast as a submarine delivered as recently as December 2004, and even slower than one delivered in 1998. (The fact that I was the first Eng on both those Seawolf-class boats in no way influences my objectivity.) I've said it before and I'll say it again: Stealth is nice, but speed is life when it come to submarine combat. Luckily, all four classes of U.S. subs have enough of both to outclass any potential adversary.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kooky Local Simpleton On Cause Of Boise Wildfire

As I left work about 7:15 p.m. on Monday evening, I was amazed at the duststorm that had come up; I couldn't even see the Boise foothills from about 3 miles away because of all the dust. As I headed west, I noticed that the dust had been joined by a bunch of white smoke coming from what looked like one spot, but I didn't see any flames. By the time I got home 20 minutes later, they were already breaking into the TV shows with reports of a major fire that had spread to a subdivision.

Aerial pictures of the damage can be seen here, including this picture:

It appears that the fire started from a power pole on the undeveloped land and quickly spread up the hill. And on what does Boise refugee from common sense Bryan Fischer blame this fire? Open space. Here's part of what he says:
Were the BLM property not off-limits to development, it is likely that homes would have been built some time ago in the area where the fire began. Preserving open space is trendy, but it drives up the price of housing and, as last night illustrated, can be dangerous.
That's right -- having any piece of undeveloped property is dangerous. Since no matter what you do, there will always be undeveloped space next to a house somewhere unless everything is developed, Bryan Fischer seems to be calling for the end to wilderness everywhere. I don't think that will go over very well here in Idaho.

The wildfire ended up destroying 10 houses, damaging 9 others, and killed a BSU professor. If you'd like to help those displaced by the fire, here's some information on how you can help.

Update 0909 28 Aug: Here's a more likely explanation for the rapid spread of the fire from house to house -- those darned cedar shake roofs that various Home Owner's Associations require, allegedly for "aesthetic" reasons. (Long-time readers know that I'm not a big fan of tasteful neighborhood beautification.) While the HOA in my neighborhood is non-functional, we still have a covenant in our deed that requires cedar shake roofs on our houses. I'm not happy about it, but since our house already has one, I'm not planning changing ours out yet just to make a point. (Plus, although we used to have a lot of "open space" around us, it's pretty much disappeared in the 4 years since we moved in.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

50 Years Of Idaho Nuclear Power

As time goes on, descriptions and images that were once considered highly classified will start to filter out into the public domain as it becomes harder to justify keeping them under wraps. For example, those of us who were assigned to the S5G Prototype at the Naval Reactors Facility in Idaho probably didn't expect to see this again:

There it is, floating in its basin in all its glory. This fascinating picture comes from Chapter 10 of this remarkable history of the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (now just the Idaho National Laboratory) from 1949-1999. Most nukes, after reading through Chap. 10, will want to go straight to the chapter on the SL-1 reactor accident; it's pretty in-depth.

I can't wait to see what else will be declassified (when appropriate) as time goes on. Maybe they'll eventually open up the Engine Room of the Nautilus for public tours. (All the plexiglass and signs are in place back there; all they need is permission from NR to open it up.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Non-Quals In The News!

Long-time readers know I love checking out pictures of the Crew's Mess of the different boats as they show up on the Navy website; it's one of the few places where a boat can show her own "personality". Earlier this week, they showed some pictures from the CNO and MCPON visit to USS Columbia (SSN 771); the Crew's Mess shots are here:

And here:

Did you notice the same thing I did? It appears that the Columbia decided to have a whole table full on non-quals just "happen" to be studying diligently as ADM Roughead and MCPON Campa came through -- and in both cases, the visiting dignitaries were shown talking with the scrubber loaders. I'm assuming they're giving them crap for being dink, but there's always a distinct possibility that they are giving them encouraging words. (After all, neither the CNO or MCPON are submariners, so maybe they don't truly know how to handle non-quals.)

All kidding aside, I'm interested in your opinion. Is the best way to get guys qualified to make life as a non-qual as unpleasant as possible so they want to get their fish just to end the abuse, or is it best to provide a nurturing environment for the new Submariners as they work diligently to earn their dolphins? I had COs of both persuasions -- before I got my fish, the CO had all non-qual officers standing 3 section EDO so the qualified guys could stand 6 section inport duty. Right after I finished all my quals, the new CO had the qualified guys stand 4 section inport duty while the non-OOD/SDO qualified NUBs only stood EDO every 5 or 6 days -- his stated theory was to give them more time to work on their quals. (I think he just didn't trust them with the plant.) The fact that I ended up taking it in the shorts under both regimes notwithstanding, I actually saw value to both approaches. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Notes From Around The 'Net

Eric (of The Sub Report fame) recently visited USS Texas (SSN 775) when she was in PEV PCAN and has a report with lots of pictures.

Another submarine blogger sent me a link to the website of this guy running for State Representative in Kansas; he's my new political hero -- a web geek on a mission. This is the kind of campaign I would run if I ever lost my mind and ran for office. I almost considered running for office this year -- even though I knew I wouldn't win, my current State Senator is such an extreme "black helicopter" conspiracy theorist that I felt it would be an insult to democracy to let her run unopposed; luckily, we got a good candidate to run against her. I got far enough in my thinking about it to come up with a slogan, though: "Joel Kennedy: Meridian Values, Real World Solutions, No Conspiracy Theories". It would have looked great on a billboard...

Last, and certainly least, enjoy this 10 second fake video of a jet launched from a submarine:

Friday, August 15, 2008

♪♪♪ "Boys In The Band Ordered Boat Pranks" ♪♪♪

I went to the doctor today, and he told me he had to use Silver Nitrate on my skin as part of the procedure. As frequently happens, the mention of an innocuous phrase used during normal life starts me thinking about Life On The Boat. In this case, it got me thinking about dangerous pranks submariners play on one another.

I frequently had to chew out nukes who thought it was "funny" to take some Silver Nitrate into Berthing and let a couple of drops run down the side of the face of some sleeping shipmate; as you know, it leaves what looks like a teardrop trail. (Of course, this prank actually was funny -- as long as it didn't get in anyone's eyes -- but as the CRA and Eng I couldn't be seen as encouraging it.)

The same thing with "pinning" someone in their rack (propping open the bedpan with the guy sound asleep in his bed) -- sure, it's humorous to see the guy yelling about how he's going to get the perpetrators when he's completely helpless, but what if there's a fire? Or EB-Greening someone upside down to a ladder?

For the weekend "midwatch shoot-the-sh*t", what are your favorite submarine pranks? They don't even have to be dangerous to anyone -- even though the best ones frequently are.

Bill Sali: Mailing It In?

I'm starting to wonder if my Congressman, Bill Sali, has pretty much given up on even trying to win re-election this year. He's not running any commercials (despite some very effective ones his moderate opponent, Walt Minnick, has running), he's not even pretending to have local offices that are actually in the district he represents, and he's not responding at all to the tidal wave of embarrassing stories about him in the national media. A response today from his press secretary about an editorial in a local paper accusing the Congressman's congressional/campaign staff (they seem to be one in the same) of incompetence / appearances of impropriety didn't even start to address how the original editorial was wrong. (I'm guessing this wasn't discussed because there were no falsehoods in the first story.) It did, however, introduce a very memorable catchphrase: "...a sea of liberalism, filth, and innuendo". I plan on using the phrase frequently in normal conversation.

As far as the Congressman moving his campaign office to join his Ada County Congressional office over in the 2nd District, I'm really not surprised; Mr. Sali's loudest supporters in the Idaho political tube-o-sphere -- Adam, Bryan Fischer, and Trish & Halli -- also live outside the Congressman's district. Other than fellow submariner Dale, I'm wondering if Mr. Sali has any people willing to be publicly identified as his supporters living anywhere inside his actual district. [Anyone want to volunteer? Just put a comment down below. Remember, you have to be willing to be publicly identified -- nom de blogs, like "neoroman" (who seems to be threatening violence against Walt Minnick in this post), don't cut it.]


NR-1 To Become Museum Boat?

I fully support this initiative from "Team Connecticut":
When its service ends, NR-1 will go to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where its fuel will be removed, and then to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington, where its nuclear reactor will be removed and the ship dismantled. The pieces would be recycled or buried at a nuclear reservation in Washington.
It would be “cut up into unrecognizable chunks,” said Michael Riegel, executive director of the Submarine Force Library and Museum Association. “That's the part we're trying to avoid.”
Riegel and David Goebel, president of the museum association, convened the meeting of NR-1 supporters Thursday to formulate a strategy for bringing the submarine back to Groton once the reactor is removed.
Their hope is that NR-1 will become a part of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum, which is already home to the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the world's first nuclear-powered submarine.
The state and local officials, museum representatives, Electric Boat employees and current and former NR-1 officers discussed the Navy's response to their initial inquiries about NR-1's future, options for expanding the museum and the possibility of securing some of the submarine's parts, including the sail, before it heads to the West Coast.
The NR-1 is a really remarkable piece of technology, and it would be completely appropriate to keep it available for future generations to appreciate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Annoying Euphemism Of The Decade: "Binge Drinking"

Everyone's heard of the term "binge drinking", usually used in news articles about how this trend is "rapidly growing" in terms bordering on shock and amazement. I saw the term used in 3 separate articles yesterday, each acting as if it's a brand new ill plaguing society.

I'm sorry, but I went to college during the 80s, and I can certainly say that there was quite a high prevalence of "binge drinking" back then -- except we didn't call it "binging", we called it "drinking to get drunk", or just "drinking". I was also in the military in the 80s and 90s, and I can assure you that "binge drinking" was quite popular before the GWOT.

I have to wonder if the journalists who participate in this kind of writing realize how ridiculous they're sounding as they talk about the "new dangers of binge drinking", or if they just had really sheltered lives growing up.

What "politically correct" euphemisms annoy you?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

New Sub Gets New Beer

The USS New Hampshire Commissioning Committee is ramping up operations in preparations for the planned October commissioning of PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778). They've got a web site set up, they're planning to entertain the 100,000 or so people expected in Portsmouth for the ceremony, and now they've made arrangements with a local brewery to produce a special beer for the occasion:
Smuttynose Brewing Co. will release Granite Ghost Ale in early September for a limited run of approximately 18,000 22-ounce bottles that will be available until late October...
...A portion of the proceeds from the beer will go toward the committee's fund-raising efforts, according to Egelston. He also hopes the beer will bring the event to the attention of other parts of New Hampshire.
The name of the beer was chosen by the crew of the submarine. "Granite Ghost" is the public radio handle for the submarine.
"Naming a beer is not an easy thing to do ... and we didn't think it was appropriate for any single person or group to come up with, so it just made logical sense to put it in front of the commander and the crew," said the brewery owner. "And I guess they had a great time doing it."
When I was on USS Connecticut (SSN 22), we had a winemaker make a special run of wine for our christening that was pretty popular; it was even sold in the Mini-Marts. Unfortunately, the wine ended up being part of a controversy when it turned out the maker of the wine was using imported grapes and neglecting to mention that on the label. Hopefully the same thing won't happen to the New Hampshire beer.

Blog Admin note: Expect somewhat light posting for the next couple of weeks, as I'll be busy watching the Olympics. (I did not boycott watching the Opening Ceremony, and thought it was quite good -- especially the Chinese Movable Type performance.) In the meantime, have you checked out Eric's new general interest blog, Decks Awash? Since Eric is the owner/operator of The Sub Report, I'm sure you'll be interested in what he has to say.

Update 1729 09 Sep: Looks like the beer idea won't happen, that's to annoying federal bureaucrats.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Why Bill Sali Is #423

My congressman, Bill Sali, was recently ranked as the 423rd "most" effective Congressman (of 435) in a survey of Congressional influence. This brings up the question -- why would Idahoans want to return someone so obviously ineffective to Congress in November? This analysis has one possible explanation:

Jasper LiCalzi, a professor of political economy at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, deep in Sali's district, said one reason for the winners' success is, Idaho voters love a "standing at the breach" attitude. Chenoweth, for instance, once accused federal agents of using black helicopter gunships to harass ranchers.
"They said, 'She's a wacko. She's out of the mainstream. She's extremist,' " LiCalzi recalled. "But Idahoans love that kind of individualistic mentality. With Sali, he may be trying to be like Davy Crockett at the Alamo: He gets killed, but he stands for what he believes in."
I'm going to go on record as saying that I don't think this viewpoint really represents the Idaho of the 21st century. Sure, there are quite a few fairly loud people who espouse the "we'd rather be right than be in power" attitude, but I think there we're seeing fewer and fewer of them as the world becomes more connected. My evidence? Consider that Bill Sali won the Republican primary in 2006 with only 26% of the vote, and couldn't even pull in 50% of the vote in the general election in a year where Republicans won all the statewide offices and he enjoyed a significant campaign fundraising advantage over his opponent. While he claims to represent the wishes of the voters of the district, there's a lot of evidence that his reflexive Club For Growth-inspired dictums are out of touch with the majority of the voters; for example, while he says he's never voted for a tax increase, the voters in the 1st District routinely pass school bonds (which increase their property taxes) with substantial supermajorities.

This year, where Mr. Sali's fundraising is running well behind his moderate opponent, Walt Minnick, voters will be able to look back on Sali's record in Congress. While Sali's team hopes they'll perceive a man who's valiantly standing up for principles, I think they'll see a man who's so utterly ineffective that it's almost laughable, backed by an organization and staff who's well-publicized incompetence reflects fully on the decision-making capabilities of their boss.

Here are some examples of Mr. Sali's ineffectiveness, incompetence, and general unseriousness:

1) Announced that he was submitting a bill to repeal the Law of Gravity (complete with an amusing mis-spelling) to protest what he was as Congress' unconstitutional attempt to raise the minimum wage.(Even more amusing, he ended up voting for the minimum wage increase as part of a combined bill.)

2) Failure to properly submit required Campaign Finance Reports in a timely manner. For the most recent quarter, he was one of only 2 Congressmen who were late in filing -- and when he finally turned it in, it was still wrong.

3) Being forced to apologize for comments widely considered to be insensitive to religious minorities.

4) Making a big deal out of opposing the approval of a Mexican consulate in Boise -- only to have the Administration (of his own party) shoot him down in record time.

5) Claiming to have stopped the ATF from using a slogan they'd actually stopped using 2 months earlier -- and then further subjecting his staff to embarrassment by demanding an apology from the ATF for his staff's inability to use Google.

6) Suggesting that we can get more money than exists in the world by leasing government land for oil and mineral exploitation, and seeming to think that we can get crude oil from trees. (Congressman Sali seems like one of those Representatives you hear about sometimes who try to make the Patent Office issue a patent to someone with a perpetual motion machine.)

7) Being on the losing end of so many lopsided votes, including many that go against the district's best interests, that it's almost comical.

The list goes on and on. Feel free to add more in the comments, or on your own blogs.

I can usually admire a man who stands on principle, even when I don't agree with his principles. When it reaches the point where an entire congressional district is left without effective, competent representation, however, I have to draw the line. I think most people in this district probably don't support many (or most) of the more extreme proposals put forth by the Democratic leadership in Congress -- I'm one of those people. Here's the thing: when Speaker Pelosi is putting together her legislative strategy, she doesn't spend a second thinking about Bill Sali -- she's not going to get his vote no matter what she does on anything controversial. You know who she does worry about? It's the conservative and moderate Democrats who she needs to maintain her majority -- especially those in traditionally Republican districts. If she tries to go too far, these men and women will let her know, in no uncertain terms, that they can't support her proposals; if they did, they'd probably find themselves out on the street at the next election. This small group of about 45-50 Democrats (including the "Blue Dog Coalition") are the people who really control what's going to pass in the House. Bill Sali can never hope to have this kind of influence that Walt Minnick will have. And since Walt's moderate values and policy proposals align quite well with all but the most extreme voters in the district, it'll be an easy choice for 1st District residents to make in November.

Update 0707 08 Aug: Adam responds to my post here. Also, I edited one really ungrammatical sentence above.


Now It's Really Hitting The Fan...

The "radioactive leak from USS Houston" story is continuing to grow -- now they've got Singapore and Malaysia involved. This new story on says that the Navy is now informing various government that USS Houston (SSN 713) has been leaking since June 2006:
Last week, Navy officials told Japan that the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, had only made one port call -- March 2008 -- while leaking the contaminated fluid.
But after reviewing records of the sub, the Navy told Japanese officials Thursday that the Houston had been leaking much longer, since June 2006, and had made port calls to Japanese bases at Sasebo, Yokosuka and Okinawa before it was discovered.
Officials have also told the governments of Malaysia and Singapore that the sub made port calls to those countries while leaking the radioactive water, Navy officials said. The Houston also made stops in Guam and Hawaii.
The rest of it is a rehash of the original story (my post about that, with all the comments, is here). We all know how conservative Naval Reactors is; if one were to assume they were looking over the records of whatever leak checks we might to on this type of valve, and may have found a discrepancy with the last performance of such a leak check, they would have had to conservatively assume that the current leak has existed since the day after the last "good" leak check; that's my guess for why we're seeing the revised information on this. All of us nukes know this really isn't a big deal in the great scheme of things, but I'm sure anti-American politicians will continue to milk it for all it's worth.

Update 1121 08 Aug: Here's an AP article where they finally put out all the information the Navy has officially released:
The U.S. Navy released a detailed chronology of the leaks over the past two years, showing that the cumulative radioactivity released was less than 9.3 micro curies — with 8 micro curies released in Guam alone. By comparison, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average amount of radioactivity in a smoke detector is about one micro curie, or 1 millionth of a curie.
Navy Commander Jeff Davis said the Houston is still in Hawaii being repaired and the reactor is turned off. Once the leak was discovered last month, the Navy provided detailed data to the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory — a government facility — to determine exactly how much radiation had leaked over the two year time period, Davis said.
The amount is so small, he said, that the Navy terms it a "weepage" rather than a leak. The problem was discovered on July 17, when about a gallon of water spilled onto a crew member when a fitting came loose. The water had previously come in contact with the reactor, but no radioactivity was detected on the sailor...
...According to the Navy's chronology, the Houston released 8 micro curies in its home port of Guam and .4 micro curies in Pearl Harbor. In addition to the leaks in Japan — a total of .605 micro curies at the three ports — the ship also released small amounts of radiation during port visits in Singapore, Port Kelang, Malaysia; and Saipan.
It'd be nice if the Navy could put the press release on one of its websites as well; they may have, but I couldn't find it in a quick search of the usual suspects. The smoke detector analogy is a good one to help people understand the magnitude of the incident; although us nukes recognize that an alpha-emitter like Americium-241 found in smoke detectors isn't really analogous to Co-60 (mentioned by the Navy already here [Intel source: Checks With Chart], for those of you worried about NNPI), it's a good way to show the public that it's a very small amount of radiation we're talking about here. (For those who want to know more about various radionuclides, or if you're just a nuke who who wants to geek out, here a link to a Chart of the Nuclides.) They also corrected the fallacy that had made its way into the earlier articles that the water had never been in contact with the reactor.

Anyone remember back a few years ago when some reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune got ahold of the Discharge Log for one of the CVNs and tried to make a big deal out of the leakage? Hardly anyone remembers that; I couldn't even find mention of it with a fairly thorough Google search. I think this current problem will go away quickly, too. And for that, I credit the quick response of NR in deciding to release the information, in proper context, in a timely manner -- they stayed in front of the story, which is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778) Finishes Alpha Trials

Only six weeks after her christening, the crew of PCU New Hampshire took their submarine to sea for the first time last week. While EB is making a big deal out of the short time between christening and Alpha Trials (it was 11 months for the Virginia), it should be pointed out that the shipyard can delay christening as long as they want -- it's purely ceremonial, and while you can't do the ceremony before the boat can float, you can do it anytime afterwards.

Still, I'm impressed that the crew got through both big milestones so close together, and I'm impressed that the shipyard will get the boat coated before delivery. For now, I'll be happy for them to release a picture of the boat on Alpha Trials -- even though I promised I wouldn't complain about it, I do want to see if the shipyard pressured the ship into flying the damn broom at the end.

Update 2300 06 Aug: I still haven't seen any pictures of the boat coming back from Alpha Trials, but here's a picture of her as she got underway:

Friday, August 01, 2008

USS Houston Radioactive Leak Reported

I'm back online now, but during the short time I couldn't post here after being erroneously identified as a potential "spam blog", a story about submarines and nuclear power showed up on the front page of Excerpts:
Water with trace amounts of radioactivity may have leaked for months from a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine as it traveled around the Pacific to ports in Guam, Japan and Hawaii, Navy officials told CNN on Friday.
The leak was found on the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, after it went to Hawaii for routine maintenance last month, Navy officials said.
The problem was discovered last month when a build-up of leaking water popped a covered valve and poured onto a sailor's leg while the submarine was in dry dock...
...Officials with knowledge of the incident could not quantify the amount of radiation leaked but insisted it was "negligible" and an "extremely low level." The total amount leaked while the sub was in port in Guam, Japan and Hawaii was less than a half of a microcurie (0.0000005 curies), or less than what is found in a 50-pound bag of lawn and garden fertilizer, the officials said.
While us nukes know that this really isn't that big a deal, we really can't talk about it in the open like this. All of us know where the leak came from (it's obvious they weren't using the "drum" this time) but any discussion of coolant discharge is pretty much covered by NNPI, so we can't go there. For example, until this post, there's only one Google return for the search "coolant discharge log"; luckily for me, it's from an official Navy site (Vol. VI, Chapter 25, Para. 25.2.4 of the JFMM), but it only says that the discharge log can be used to determine the number of days in-port or in drydock for URO periodicity determination -- that brief mention at least allows me to mention that such a document exists.

Pretty much all we can do is confirm that the amount of radioactivity reported discharged in port is very, very small and wouldn't be likely to cause any problems. I can also add that, in my experience, the discharge log is one of the most closely audited pieces of administration on the boat, so you can be pretty sure that the numbers the Navy is putting out are right. Not that this will matter to the many alarmists who are sure to come out of the woodwork. Still, I think the Navy did a smart thing by releasing the total curie content of the potential in-port discharge, along with a comparison of how small this level of radioactivity really is.

Update 2205 01 Aug: Checks With Chart has more, including a link to the Navy Times article on the incident.