Thursday, November 1, 2012

Carrier Enterprise to be scrapped ..

Washington (CNN) -- The USS Enterprise is the nation's oldest active duty warship, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and a history-making symbol of America's naval might for half a century.

But it's now headed for the scrap heap.

Virtually all the weapons and ammunition has been off loaded. By the end of the week, it'll make its final return to its home port of Norfolk, Virginia. On Dec. 1, "The Big E" will be become officially inactive.

But one doesn't just take an aircraft carrier with eight nuclear reactors in its hold and park it somewhere. The Navy will spend three years and tens of millions of dollars removing the ship's radioactive fuel and reactors before cutting it into scrap.

Mike Maus, a spokesperson for Naval Air Force Atlantic, said the process starts just up the James River.

"Following the inactivation period, it will be towed over to Newport News -- to Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding -- where it will be defueled. They'll remove all the fuel from it."

The fuel will be shipped to Idaho for temporary storage, Maus said. "Sometime at a later date, it will be disposed of."

While in Newport News, some of the Enterprise's equipment will be removed then the next phase begins.

The carrier, minus planes, ammunition and a propulsion system, heads to Puget Sound, the long way.

"It will be towed around (Cape) Horn to Puget Sound, Washington," Maus said.

The Enterprise, like America's other nuclear carriers, is too big to fit through the Panama Canal, so it must round the southern-most point of South America to get to Washington State.

"It'll be a very lengthy tow," he said.

Once it reaches the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the long and difficult task of removing the eight reactors from the Enterprise's hold begins.

"In order to remove the reactors, it takes a lot of cutting and hacking on the ship to do that," Maus said. "They do cut through the flight deck and they may very well be cutting through the hull of the ship itself."

Once the reactors are removed, CVN-65 will be formally decommissioned.

According to a Navy Environmental Impact Statement, the reactors will be put on barges, floated up the Columbia River to the site of the former Hanford nuclear production complex where they will be buried in a huge trench near reactors from smaller decommissioned naval warships.

But unlike the USS Intrepid in New York City or the USS Midway in San Diego, the Enterprise is not destined to become a floating museum.

Removing the reactors essentially destroys the ship.

"Once the reactors are removed, to put the ship back in any shape to where it still resembles a ship the cost would be over the moon," said Maus.

So the ship, all 90,000 tons of it will be cut up and the metal sold for scrap.

But that doesn't mean the name Enterprise will fade from U.S. Navy history. There have been seven other warships to bear that name and there is already a petition to name a yet-to-be-built carrier the ninth USS Enterprise.

China flying second stealth prototype

BEIJING — China has test flown a second model of a prototype stealth fighter, aviation experts said Thursday, in a sign of its aircraft industry’s growing sophistication.
Photos posted to the Internet Thursday showed the radar-avoiding aircraft airborne near the northeastern city of Shenyang with its landing gear still down. Two Chinese-made J-11 fighters accompanied it on the flight, which Chinese military enthusiast websites said took place Wednesday and lasted about 10 minutes.
Ross Babbage of Australia’s Kokoda Foundation and Greg Waldron of Flightglobal magazine in Singapore said the plane known as the J-31 appeared to be a smaller version of the J-20 prototype that was tested last year in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
While both planes feature stealth design features, their true capabilities in terms of sensors, radar-absorbing coatings, and other key factors remain unknown. It isn’t known when, or if, either plane will go into production.
“I think it’s a fairly straight forward evolution to develop advanced fighters at this time, but you can’t read too much into it in terms of capabilities,” Waldron told The Associated Press.
The smaller and nimbler J-31 appeared intended for a fighter-interceptor role similar to the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter, while the heavier J-20 would target airfields, warships and other ground targets, he said.
The technical barriers and development costs for such aircraft are enormous and the U.S. has struggled for years to deliver on their potential.
Another major challenge for China is developing engines for its fighters that are reliable and capable enough for such cutting-edge aircraft, Babbage said. China remains overwhelmingly reliant on Russia for engines for its latest J-10, J-11, and J-15 models, the last two of which were developed from Russian Sukhoi fighter-bombers.

Mystery widens over airborne substance that sickened 200

(6:10 p.m. update)
SANTA TERESA — A mysterious airborne substance made workers sick and caused a mass evacuation of Doña Ana County Industrial Park on Tuesday morning.
Less than 200 people became ill but none suffered serious problems, officials said.
Those affected were examined by paramedics from El Paso and Doña Ana County and then released. Students at Santa Teresa High School a few miles away were not affected, officials said.
The New Mexico National Guard was called to the scene because officials on Tuesday had not figured out what caused people to get sick.

Officials late Tuesday afternoon said the industrial park will remain closed, possibly into today and that the initial investigation focused on Foamex, a company that produces foam fillings for automobiles.
Officials said the investigation has moved beyond Foamex into other buildings in the area.
Several warehouse employees began feeling ill and having difficulty breathing at about 8:30 a.m. outside a building at 2500 block of Airport Road.

The Doña Ana County Fire and Emergency Service Department Hazardous Materials Response Team was dispatched to area and began evacuating people in a one mile radius, Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kelly Jameson, said.

"We don't have any spill reports right now," Jameson said. "We are working to determine the cause of this situation. What we are going to do is conduct some air-quality testing that will hopefully
help us to determine what we are dealing with right now."

By Tuesday afternoon, Las Cruces Fire Department's Hazmat team and the civil-support team from the New Mexico National Guard were deployed to the area.

A National Guard spokesman Col. Michael Montoya said the civil-support team is a hazmat specialist team.
"They test chemicals or substances that other responders can't test," Montoya said. "We have some of the most sophisticated equipment."

Montoya said the civil-support team is usually called in to assist other agencies.
An El Paso Elite Medical Transport ambulance bus, one of 13 in Texas, evacuated 20 people at a time to a set-up command center at Santa Teresa High School by the American Red Cross.
Paramedics treated people who were complaining of light-headedness, nausea and dizziness. After three hours, all of the evacuees were cleared and released.

None of the workers who were evacuated were taken to the hospital.
There were not reports of sickness from the nearest neighborhood at McNutt Road and the Pete V. Domenici Highway, officials said.

New Mexico State Police, Doña Ana County sheriff deputies and Border Patrol agents blocked off Airport Road at the Pete V. Domenici Highway, just miles away from the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, which remained open.
The Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority also began calling residents and businesses within two miles of the incident to warn them about the situation.

Residents were asked to stay inside, seal doors and windows and turn off air conditioners and heating systems so they would not draw air inside.

The Doña Ana County Airport was also closed and evacuated.
A long line of 18-wheelers were parked along the Pete V. Domenici Highway, most drivers said they had deliveries to make at the industrial park.

From about half mile away, lines of emergency vehicles could be seen parked along the road that leads into the park. Police and firefighters were seen discussing the situation, but nothing could be seen where the investigation was taking place.


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