NR-1 is the navy’s smallest nuclear-powered and only nuclear-powered research submarine. Launched in 1969, th 145′ NR-1 (known affectionately as Nerwin) was designed for deep submergence work on the seabed ranging from recovery, repair, implantation, and observation. Given its nuclear reactor, missions on the bottom can last day limited only by consumables. The submersible possesses bunks for these extended missions. Despite this independence, it generally towed and does not stray far from a surface support ship, currently the MV Carolyn Chouest.
During extended missions, NR-1 typically has a compliment of 13 (2 officers, 8 enlisted, and 2 scientists). I believe the crew compartment is composed of 3 steel (titanium?) spheres connected together. Three 4-inch view-ports on its bottom, nineteen 250-watt gas discharge lights, eight 1000-watt, two 500-watt incandescent lights, and 16 different low light TV cameras in various locations allow multiple opportunities for observation. One key feature that makes Nerwin cooler than other than any other research submersibles is the presence of a periscope (and lets not forget that nuclear reactor!). The hydraulic manipulator arm can lift objects weight up to a ton.
NR-1 has conducted many underwater searches, underwater repair and salvage operations, including the recovery of critical wreckage from an Air Force F-14 lost off the coast of North Carolina, EgyptAir Flight 990 off the coast of New England, the Challenger shuttle in 1986, and the discovery of the USS O-12 (SS-73) and 25 other shipwrecks in a 12-hour period in a Norwegian fjord.
As Peter can attest in 2007, NR-1 was used to survey the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and other sites in the Gulf of Mexico.