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USS Miami nuke sub forced into retirement after worker-set fire

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 7:33 p.m.

KITTERY, Maine — The Navy said farewell on Friday to the USS Miami, the nuclear-powered submarine whose service was cut short when a shipyard employee trying to get out of work set it on fire, causing $700 million in damage.

The somber deactivation ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard marked the beginning of an inglorious end: The submarine will be towed to the West Coast to be cut up for scrap metal.

Rear Adm. Ken Perry, commander of the submarine Group Two in Groton, Conn., where the sub was based, acknowledged the disappointment over its premature retirement but told the crowd they were there to celebrate Miami and its crew members for nearly 24 years of service.

“This is a tribute,” he said. “This is a celebration of the ship's performance and the superb contributions to the nation's defense and this is how we're going to treat it. So I expect to see some smiles out there.”

Perry praised the ship's performance over more than a dozen deployments that included clandestine undersea warfare missions and back-to-back deployments in which it fired cruise missiles in Iraq and in Serbia, earning the nickname “Big Gun.”

After the fire, the Navy originally intended to return the ship to the fleet next year after extensive repairs. But it decided to scrap the submarine when estimated repair costs grew substantially above a $450 million estimate.

Instead, shipyard workers will remove nuclear fuel and ship it to a federal repository in Idaho. They will make enough repairs so the submarine can be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state, where it will be cut up for scrap. The estimated cost of the sub's inactivation is $54 million.

The Los Angeles-class submarine was damaged at the hands of a shipyard worker who set a fire in May 2012.

Seeking an excuse to leave work early, Casey James Fury set fire to a box of rags on a bunk, and the blaze quickly spread. Fury pleaded guilty and is serving a 17-year sentence in federal prison.

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