power allows a nuclear-powered submarine to maintain a far more comfortable
environment than was ever possible in conventional submarines. But close
quarters, especially in attack submarines, still make for such hardships
as restricted storage space, little opportunity for exercise, and lack
Although the "head," or toilet, in a submarine looks like its terrestrial
counterpart, there are major differences. Waste on a submarine is transferred
into a holding tank below the commode via a hand-operated ball valve.
To remove it, the tank is pressurized up to 700 psi (49.2 kg/sq. cm) and
the waste is then blown outside the pressure hull.
Washer and Dryer
Early Cold War nuclear-powered submarines had space for only a single
clothes washer that handled as little as 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of dirty laundry;
later ones have greater capacity. Whatever the capacity, however, machine
time always had to be rationed. A crew member had to plan ahead and sign
up for an available time slot to use the washing machine and dryer.
The personal space for the crew on a nuclear-powered submarine is extremely
tight, as shown by these stacked bunks from USS Trepang (SSN-674). The
bins underneath the berths represent the only space a sailor has to store
his clothing and other personal items for the duration of a patrol. On
a fast attack boat such as Trepang, the crowding can be so great that
three men may "hot bunk," or share two bunks between them, so that when
one is on duty, another is asleep.
The standard uniform for officers and crew in a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine
at sea is blue coveralls. They are made of lint-free polyester, because
lint could clog the air purification system. This garment, known as a
"poopie suit," is simple, easy to wear, and practical. Footwear is up
to the individual, so long as it has a non-slip rubber sole, which also
has the advantage of being quiet. Sneakers are popular.