Navy to expand nuclear training school in Goose Creek
GOOSE CREEK -- The nuclear power training school -- one of the lowest-profile operations at the Naval Weapons Station -- is in line to get a major improvement.
The closely guarded facility, which teaches sailors about nuclear propulsion and how to operate nuclear reactors, will get:
Upgrading the school will ripple through the area economy.
"I think it's another example of Charleston being able to support the (military) mission and being able to expand the mission," said Mary
Graham, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce senior vice president.
Staff salaries will create "a little bit of a bump" in local payroll and spending; the construction itself will create a number of temporary jobs, she said.
Because the students and staff annually take part in the United Way's Day of Caring volunteer effort, it also means hundreds more volunteers, she said.
The facility is one of two Navy Nuclear Power Training Units; the other is outside Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Each school trains 1,200 students per year. By 2022, the Charleston facility would handle 1,800 students.
In the interim, it would handle 2,800 while the operations are refueled at the New York school, according to the draft environmental assessment.
Over the 10-year span, the USS Daniel Webster and the USS Sam Rayburn, both built in the early 1960s, would be replaced one by one with the 1970s-era USS La Jolla and the USS San Francisco.
The two newer subs are somewhat notorious.
The San Francisco might be best known for a 2005 crash into an undersea mountain in the Pacific Ocean. The La Jolla in 1982 collided with another submarine and in 1998 struck and sank a Korean fishing trawler.
The La Jolla also was the first submarine to successfully test-fire a Tomahawk cruise missile while submerged, and the San Francisco was honored for tactical operations.
The two newer submarines have reactors capable of producing double the thermal wattage, or power, for the electric generator.
The assessment of the project has been made available for public comment. It calls for periodic monitoring of the river, air and ground for radioactivity but notes the safety features and record of the current operation.
It says radioactivity from the training has not been detected in the water, and found in its air emissions "a smaller amount of radioactivity than was present in the ambient air outside the facilities."
Staff with the environmental advocate Coastal Conservation League had no comment on the project.
The training school was built in 1996. In the mid-1980s, the Charleston Naval Base and the Charleston Naval Weapons Station were home ports to more submarines than any other base in the free world.
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Renovate X-Ray piers to hold two larger submarines
Replace the USS Daniel Webster and USS Sam Rayburn with the USS La Jolla and USS San Francisco
Remove older office, classroom and storage barges, replace with shoreside buildings
New gate, fencing and other security improvements
Nearly double parking to 1,900 spaces
2012 -- 1,200 students per year
2015 -- 1,500 per year
2022 -- 1,800 per year
2020-2022 -- 2,800 per year*
*Temporary assignments while the school at Ballston Spa, N.Y., is refueled
SOURCE: NAVAL NUCLEAR POWER TRAINING UNIT — CHARLESTON DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT