The aircraft carrier Nimitz returned to its Washington state home port Tuesday following the discovery of what the Navy dubbed “a minor material deficiency” in the ship’s nuclear propulsion plant.

Nimitz began sea trials on Saturday, following six months of maintenance at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Sailors discovered the propulsion plant problem Sunday while the ship was operating in international waters off the West Coast, according to Naval Air Force Pacific spokesman Cmdr. Zachary Harrell.

“The ship’s crew took action to address the deficiency and the ship returned to port,” Harrell said in a statement Wednesday. “The deficiency posed no risk to the ship, the propulsion plant, the ship’s crew or the environment.”

Harrell declined to provide further details regarding exactly what went wrong with the propulsion plant.

The shipyard “will conduct a full assessment and conduct any necessary repairs prior to the ship’s next underway period,” Harrell said.

The propulsion plant issue popped up just days after Nimitz completed six months of maintenance that followed a grueling 11-month deployment that ended in March, the longest in decades.

Between the end of maintenance and the start of sea trials, the 46-year-old carrier underwent a fast cruise last week to test equipment and get sailors refreshed on underway operations.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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