Nuclear submarines are renowned for their ability to remain submerged for extended periods of time. With the capacity to produce their own oxygen and store up to 90 days of food, they can easily traverse oceans and remain underwater for three or four months. This is a feat that conventional submarines cannot match. The United States Navy has a fleet of nuclear submarines that are used for strategic ballistic missile (SSB) purposes, as well as for tactical operations in the War on Terrorism.
The first nuclear submarine was made possible by the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by a group of scientists and engineers from the United States in the Naval Reactor Branch of the Bureau of Ships and the Atomic Energy Commission. This gave nuclear submarines an edge over conventional submarines, as they could remain submerged for longer periods of time and travel at greater speeds. The German Type 214 submarine is the standard for AIP submarines, with a maximum dive speed of 23 mph (37 km/h).The United States maintains 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines as part of its nuclear triad. This ensures that if a nation were to launch a first-strike nuclear attack, the United States would be able to respond with its own nuclear weapons.
The Oregon Department of Energy works with the Navy to ensure the safe passage of barges carrying nuclear waste from decommissioned naval reactors. The Nuclear Waste Program of the Washington State Department of Ecology oversees all Hanford nuclear waste activities, including those related to some types of contaminated reactor parts from nuclear ships at the Hanford facility in Washington State. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier powered by two nuclear reactors, is docked near San Diego, California. Nuclear submarines have played a strategic role in the nuclear triad throughout the Cold War, as well as tactically in the War on Terrorism with highly advanced weapon systems. From the late 1950s to the end of 1997, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, built a total of 245 nuclear submarines, more than all other nations combined.