Reactor Soon To Go Critical For First Time

The Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) NEW JERSEY (SSN 796) is preparing to take their nuclear reactor, which will power the ship for its 40 years of service, critical for the first time. This major milestone paves the way for the NEW JERSEY to support the fleet and our nation. 

To achieve a stable chain reaction and, therefore, a critical reactor, the crew will raise the neutron-absorbing control rods from the bottom of the uranium core for the first time. Neutrons, now able to interact with the uranium, cause fission, splitting the uranium and releasing additional neutrons along with thermal energy, which generates steam and is used to power the ship. When the sum total of neutrons produced by fission equals the number absorbed, the reactor is “critical.”

The training and dedication of the entire crew and shipyard is recognized and appreciated as, together, they approach this historic milestone.