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Author Topic: Russian nuclear submarine accident leaves 20 dead  (Read 4165 times)

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Russian nuclear submarine accident leaves 20 dead
« on: November 10, 2008, 09:20:02 am »

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7718156.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7718604.stm

Twenty people have died on board a Russian nuclear submarine - believed to be an Akula II attack class vessel - during trials in the Sea of Japan. There were 208 people on board.



Graphic of Akula II attack submarine and possible scenario of incident
1. Fire extinguishers switched on in front of submarine for unknown reasons
2. Affected area may have been sealed off, trapping personnel inside
3. Freon gas released by fire extinguishing system to remove oxygen
4. Twenty people die and 21 are injured - reportedly poisoned

The authorities say the submarine's nuclear reactor is not affected, the injured are sent for treatment and the vessel returns to port


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/3411831/Russian-nuclear-submarine-accident-leaves-20-dead.html


The reputation of Russia's accident-prone navy has suffered a major blow after it was forced to admit that 20 sailors and technicians on a nuclear submarine died after inhaling poisonous gas.

The country's worst naval disaster since the sinking of the Kursk eight years ago threatens to undermine Russia's ambitions of restoring its reputation as a military superpower and could also test the popularity of Dmitry Medvedev, the new president.

For reasons that remain unclear, a fire extinguishing system aboard the Nerpa, an Akula II class nuclear powered attack submarine, was inadvertently triggered as the vessel was undergoing safety tests in the Sea of Japan.

According to defence sources, personnel at the head of the submarine were unable to don oxygen masks after a sprinkler system in the roof of the vessel began to spray Freon, a poisonous gas used in refrigerators and air conditioning units.

It was uncertain whether or not the submarine was equipped with oxygen masks, as it should have been for precisely such an event. Experts said that the submariners would have survived for about 15 minutes before falling into a coma -- enough time to don the masks if they had been available.

The gas was contained after hatches dividing the vessel's compartments sealed themselves automatically. The submarine's atomic reactor, located towards the rear of the vessel, was unaffected.

Structurally undamaged, the submarine was escorted into port near Vladivostok, the main city on Russia's eastern seaboard. All but 80 on board were engineers from the Amur Shipyard, where the submarine was built.

The accident will do more than just highlight the Russian navy's dismal safety record.

The disaster on the Kursk, which killed 118 submariners after a dummy torpedo filled with hydrogen peroxide detonated on board, sending the vessel to the bottom of the sea in Aug 2000, remains seared on the Russian national psyche.

The saga presented Vladimir Putin, who had been president for less than a year, with the gravest challenge of his political career after Russians reacted with outrage when he refused to interrupt his holiday on the Black Sea to deal with the crisis.

Though not on the same scale, political commentators were already questioning whether the Kremlin could use the accident on the Nerpa to undermine Mr Medvedev, who took over from Mr Putin in May. Speculation has mounted in the past week that Mr Medvedev could step down next year to make way for the return of his predecessor and mentor.

The incident also raises doubts over the feasibility of Russia's military revival and its reputation as a credible purveyor of armaments to foreign powers. The Nerpa, according to defence sources and press reports, was due to be delivered to India on a 10-year lease after it completed tests.

The vessel's ill-fated history is illustrative of the problems plaguing Russian shipbuilding, despite grandiose Kremlin plans to commission dozens of new submarines and aircraft carriers as part of a wider military overhaul.

Ordered in 1986, construction on the Nerpa and other Akula class submarines - one of the world's stealthiest underwater vessels - was halted in 1992 as government funding evaporated in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Work is believed to have resumed in 2000 after India reportedly paid a 415 million advance.

But the Amur shipyard where the Nerpa was being built remained plagued by problems. Once among the Soviet Union's most famous shipyards, it has a reputation today for shoddy workmanship thanks to a dearth of professional engineers, outdated equipment and a poor standard of metal used in construction.

China has reportedly complained that submarines it acquired from the Amur Shipyard frequently leak.
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