February 28, 2018

Another Near Catastrophic Russian Nuclear Submarine Fire, occurred in 2011

The Russian Navy suffers a high number of major nuclear submarine fires compared to other nuclear navies. See the April 2015 fire of Oscar class SSGN Orel. Fire was also a part of the August 2000 Oscar class submarine Kursk disaster.

Kyle Mizokami for Popular Mechanics on February 28, 2018 reported an earlier even more dangerous, December 2011, fire that involved Russian Delta class SSBN "Ekaterinburg" still carrying highly flammable torpedoes (with propellant), SLBM rocket fuel, nuclear warheads and of course its two VM4-SG nuclear reactors. 

Following is a portion of Kyle's article https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/navy-ships/a18757426/in-2011-a-russian-submarine-fire-nearly-cause-a-nuclear-disaster/

"Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin has admitted that a December 2011 incident involving a nuclear missile submarine almost became one of the worst nuclear weapons disasters ever recorded.

The Ekaterinburg, a ballistic missile submarine, caught fire in drydock, threatening its load of liquid-fueled nuclear missiles. If the missiles had caught fire, then the resulting explosions would have spewed radioactivity over a wide area, threatening a nearby town of 300,000 people.

The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine K-84, also known as Ekaterinburg, had made a quick stop in drydock before heading out on a missile patrol. The ship was surrounded by wooden scaffolding for a welding job on the bow when a fire broke out. The fire quickly spread to the submarine’s rubber anechoic coating, which is designed to lower the sub’s acoustic signature underwater. The fire burned for nearly a day as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze..."


Also seeEkaterinburg, commissioned in 1985, is still in active service.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

From the view point of assessment of management system, repeatation and severity of failure means that its root cause is not eliminated and that management system is useless, respectively. Therefore, the management system in maitainance of Russian submarine has major drawbacks. The management system should be thoroughly reviewed as soon as possible.


Josh said...

What I can't understand is why a boat with fully fueled missiles was allowed into a try dock. That has to violate some kind of safety protocol, especially for *liquid* fueled missiles. I doubt this would be the case in western navies.


starshiy said...

Hello, Pete !
ekaterinburg was unfloated with all his missiles and torpedoes onboard. Lesson seems to have been learned. When going on dry-dock, project 06363 of the Black sea are putting all their weapons ashoure. In january 2017 for the B-261, and now for the B-237

Anonymous said...

I would like to think that most western, including australian, submarines would disarm the boat before entering into any procedure in dry dock.
Especially for welding which is a major cause of fire.

thanks for your work.

Peter Coates said...

Hi starshiy

I note "project 06363" means Project 636.3 Kilo class SSKs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilo-class_submarine#Project_636.3_units

It is good that Russia is putting its Kilo class Kalibr and Yakhont? missiles and torpedoes ashore.

Probably the most critical concern is Russia's SSBNs (including the Delta in above article). That is putting ashore Russia's SLBMs (explosive rocket fuel with poisonous Uranium/Plutonium warheads on top).

More generally - for all Russia's nuclear subs fire is a major danger to submarine nuclear reactors.