Otto Hahn (ship)

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Otto Hahn
Federal Archives B 145 Bild-F031999-0006, Freighter NS Otto Hahn.jpg
Ship data
flag GermanyGermany Germany Liberia
other ship names

Trophy (1983)
Norasia Susan (1983–1985)
Norasia Helga (1985)
Carmen (1985–1989)
Hua Kang He (1989–1998)
Anais (1998)
Tal (1998–1999)
Madre (1999–2009)

Ship type Research
ship cargo ship
home port Hamburg
Shipyard Howaldtswerke , Kiel
Build number 1103
building-costs 56 million German marks
Launch June 13, 1964
Commissioning October 11, 1968
Whereabouts Sold for demolition at the end of 2009
Ship dimensions and crew
172.05 m ( Lüa )
158.2 m ( Lpp )
width 23.4 m
Draft Max. 9.22 m
measurement 16,870 GRT
crew 63 men
Machine system
machine Pressurized water reactor
steam turbine
11,000 PS (8,090 kW)
17 kn (31 km / h)
propeller 1 four-wing
Transport capacities
Load capacity 14,079 dwt
IMO no. 6416770
Nuclear ship Otto Hahn in the port of Hamburg (1980)
Otto Hahn chimney on the grounds of the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven

The cargo-carrying nuclear ship Otto Hahn was the third civilian ship to be powered by a nuclear reactor after the Soviet icebreaker Lenin and the American Savannah . The ship was named after the nuclear chemist and Nobel Prize winner Otto Hahn , who was personally present when the ship was launched in 1964. It was intended as a pilot project for the maritime use of nuclear energy , but remained the only German ship with a nuclear power drive , also popularly known as the "nuclear ship".


Planning and construction

The start of the construction of the ship was made in 1960 by the Society for Nuclear Energy Utilization in Shipbuilding and Shipping ( GKSS ) in Geesthacht for a nuclear-powered merchant ship with the emphasis on the priority of research tasks. In 1961, German shipyards submitted proposals for a ship that could be suitable for the installation of such a propulsion system. A tanker was originally planned, but the GKSS had also requested alternatives. The choice fell on an ore freighter like the one offered by the Howaldtswerke in Kiel . At that time, the planned reactor was still a type with an organic moderator and coolant (OMR). In the course of 1962, however, this type was abandoned again, as technical difficulties had ruined its economic potential. On November 27, 1962, the shipyard construction contract was signed in the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg . The management of the development and construction of the nuclear powered ship was entrusted to the German nuclear physicist Erich Bagge ( Kiel , Geesthacht). A year later, the drive could be determined from the offers of various reactor manufacturers.

The ship was built between 1963 and 1968 by Howaldtswerke AG in Kiel with construction costs of 56 million  DM , in which Euratom contributed 16 million DM. The work on the nuclear drive took up most of the construction time; the hull was christened in the summer of 1964 in the presence of its namesake. A pressurized water reactor from the manufacturer Interatom in Bensberg with water as cooling liquid and moderator in the primary circuit, which was built by Deutsche Babcock & Wilcox Dampfkessel-Werke AG in Friedrichsfeld (Lower Rhine) , served as the energy source . The drive steam for the conventional steam turbine was generated in the secondary circuit.

Pressurized water reactor

What was progressive with this type of reactor compared to conventional pressurized water reactors was the relocation of components previously arranged outside the reactor pressure vessel into the reactor pressure vessel. Support structures for the components and the connecting pipes could be omitted.

The secondary steam generator and the pressurizer for the primary circuit were part of the pressure vessel internals in the advanced pressurized water reactor. The pressure in the primary system was maintained by the vapor cushion in the upper part of the reactor pressure vessel. The temperature of the primary water at the reactor core outlet determined the vapor pressure of the vapor cushion. The primary water was circulated with three free-standing primary circulation pumps, which were attached to the bottom of the pressure vessel with short pipe bends. The flow back to the reactor core took place in the inner pipe of the elbow. Due to the steam cushion, the static height of the primary system and the cooling of the primary water at the secondary steam generator, the necessary inlet pressure for the primary circulation pumps was guaranteed even in rough seas.

The reactor shields outside of the reactor pressure vessel have been simplified by the compact design of the advanced pressurized water reactor.

Operation and research

The nuclear powered ship completed its first test drive on October 11, 1968. The Otto Hahn was a research ship ; its use as a cargo ship was secondary. This also shows its unusual appearance with the bow-side bridge and the extensive rear-side superstructures, which in addition to the cabins for up to 36 researchers, a meeting room and two laboratories also included two salons as well as various trade fairs and reception rooms for representation purposes. The aim was to gain experience with this ship for future nuclear ship facilities, but at the same time to use it as an ore ship in quasi-commercial use. On March 18, 1977, the Society for Nuclear Energy Utilization in Shipbuilding and Shipping Ltd. (GKSS) in Geesthacht handed over the management and chartering of the ship to the shipping company Hapag-Lloyd in Hamburg. Since the Otto Hahn, as a reactor ship, was not allowed to call at foreign ports to the desired extent, the experiment was finally stopped in 1979. For the ship designs Nukleares Container-Schiff  80 (NCS-80) and (NCS 240) of the GKSS, Interatom and the Bremer Vulkan, created in the 1970s, despite promised state funding, there was no shipowner who wanted to commission such a ship himself.

By the time the nuclear drive was decommissioned, the ship had called at 33 ports in 22 countries. During its operating time, however, the Otto Hahn was mainly able to call at ports in South America and Africa, many of them only once with a special permit . A passage through the Suez or the Panama Canal was always denied. Internationally valid guidelines for the operators of nuclear energy ships never came into being despite numerous maritime law conferences in the 1960s.

From 1969 Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock was the captain of Otto Hahn . Ralf Matheisel led the ship from 1974 to 1979. The last voyage of the ship to Durban is described in the novel The Farewell by Lothar-Günther Buchheim .

Bugwappen the Otto Hahn , today in the river Elbe Geesthacht issued

Decommissioning of the reactor

After a total of 650,000 nautical miles , the nuclear drive was shut down in 1979. The extensions took place in the port of Hamburg. The pressure vessel and the nuclear fuel rods were stored in the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht in 1981 .

In the summer of 2010, 52 nuclear fuel rods were transported from there to the Cadarache nuclear research center in the south of France . From there, the treated nuclear material was transferred in December 2010 to the interim storage facility north in Lubmin near Greifswald.

On November 16, 2016, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht applied for, among other things, the dismantling of the reactor pressure vessel in accordance with Section 7 of the Atomic Energy Act.

Conversions and further use

The Otto Hahn was sold in the summer of 1982 to the Hamburg shipowner Harm Vellguth (Projex Reederei), who renamed the ship the Trophy and for 4 million DM by November 1983 at the Bremerhaven-based Rickmers shipyard to a container ship with a diesel drive and three 35 tonnes - had cranes rebuilt. The stern superstructures were removed, and in their place the bridge originally located amidships was put in place, which radically changed the appearance of the ship. Under the names Norasia Susan (from 1983), Norasia Helga (from 1985), Carmen (from 1985), the ship sailed for Projex until 1988. The freighter changed ownership of the Chinese shipping company COSCO from 1989 to 1998 as Hua Kang He . After that, the ship was converted into a multi-purpose freighter for new Greek owners and remained in service as Anais , Tal and Madre until 2009 under the Liberian flag .

After several weeks lay in Abu Dhabi , the ship was sold to Bangladesh for demolition at the end of 2009 by its last shipping company, the Greek Alon Maritime Corporation, for 2.45 million US dollars .

Remaining components of the ship

The former coat of arms of Otto Hahn can be found today on a meadow behind the outdoor pool in Geesthacht. The ship's bell is located at the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht - Center for Materials and Coastal Research , formerly the Society for Nuclear Energy Utilization in Shipbuilding and Shipping mbH (GKSS), in the archive. The chimney, which had more of a decorative function, is on the outdoor area of ​​the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven. It was only needed when using the auxiliary machines. Otto Hahn's reactor and machine control center is also in the collection of the German Maritime Museum.

Technical specifications

Construction data


  • Propulsion system normal / max: 10,000 / 11,000  PS
  • Speed ​​normal / max: 97/100 rpm
  • Steam volume main / auxiliary turbine: 48.8 / 5.7 t / h
  • Primary system operating pressure: 63.5 bar
  • Inlet / outlet temperature: 267/278 ° C
  • Secondary steam system feed water steam temperature: 185/273 ° C
  • Steam pressure: 31 bar


  • Thermal power: 38 MW
  • Operating time at full load: 900 d
  • Average burnup: 23,000 MWd / t U
  • Used UO 2 amount: 1.7 t
  • Medium enrichment : 3.5 / 6.6%
  • Mean thermal neutron flux : 1.1 × 10 13 / cm 2 s 1
  • Number of elements / fuel rods : 12/2810
  • Equivalent core diameter: 1050 mm
  • Active core height: 830 mm
  • Fuel rod diameter: 11.4 mm
  • Wall thickness of the ducts: 0.8 mm
  • Cladding tube material: Zircalloy -4

Reactor pressure vessel

  • Diameter / height light: 2360/8580 mm
  • Internal volume: 35 m³
  • Wall / cladding thickness: 50/8 mm
  • Design pressure / temperature: 85 kp / cm² / 300 ° C


  • Lothar-Günther Buchheim : "Otto Hahn": The atomic ruin . In: Geo-Magazin . Hamburg 1979, 5, pp. 66–84, ISSN  0342-8311 (informative experience report from an insider: "A functioning nuclear freighter is clear to be scrapped: It had gone ahead of seafaring history. Lothar-Günther Buchheim wrote down the last impressions from on board." Buchheim meets the "old man" who was his commander on "U96" during the war and now rides on the NS "Otto Hahn" (NS stands for nuclear ship).
  • Werner Hinsch: Stranded at a desk . Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2012, ISBN 978-3-8482-5365-4 .
  • Luciene Fernandes Justo / Gildo Magalhães dos Santos: The Otto Hahn Nuclear Ship and the German-Brazilian Deals on Nuclear Energy. A Case Study in Big Science, in: Icon 6 (2000), pp. 21-49.
  • Hajo Neumann : From the research reactor to the Otto Hahn nuclear ship. The development of nuclear power drives for the merchant navy in Germany . Hauschild, Bremen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89757-446-5 .
  • Hajo Neumann: Shipyard industry and technological "spin-off" using the example of "Otto Hahn" . In: Jürgen Elvert, Sigurd Hess, Heinrich Walle (Hrsg.): Maritime Economy in Germany. Shipping - shipyards - trade - sea power in the 19th and 20th centuries . Steiner, Stuttgart 2012, pp. 106–117, ISBN 978-3-515-10137-0 .
  • Michael Schaaf: Nuclear fission in the heart of darkness. Africa and the origins of the nuclear age. in: Vera Keizer (ed.): Radiochemistry, diligence and intuition. New research on Otto Hahn. Berlin 2018. ISBN 978-3-86225-113-1 (including a chapter on the "NS Otto Hahn", pp. 450–457)

Web links

Commons : Otto Hahn  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. "Otto Hahn": Exotic with nuclear power drive forty years ago . In: Hansa , issue 6/2017, p. 98
  2. Information on the container ship NCS-80  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Federal Archives@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  3. Paul Laufs: Reactor Safety for Power Nuclear Power Plants : The Development in the Political and Technical Environment of the Federal Republic of Germany , Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2013, pp. 809/810.
  4. Cf. Michael Schaaf: Nuclear fission in the heart of darkness. Africa and the origins of the nuclear age. In: Vera Keizer (Hrsg.): Radiochemie, diligence and intuition. New research on Otto Hahn. Berlin 2018. ISBN 978-3-86225-113-1 . It contains a list of all African ports that NS Otto Hahn called.
  5. Nibelungen Kurier Online: The only German "nuclear ship"
  6. BAnz AT November 25, 2016 B10