August 30, 2003

Another Russian Sub Accident

A Russian nuclear-powered submarine sank in the Barents Sea on Saturday morning as it was being towed to a scrapyard, killing at least two of the 10 sailors on board, the Defense Ministry said.

The two nuclear reactors of the 40-year-old K-159 was shut down at the time of the sinking at about 4 a.m. about 3 1/2 miles northwest of Kildin Island, the ministry said. No weapons were aboard.

One sailor was rescued, but seven more are missing and presumed dead.

The K-159, a November-class attack submarine, was decommissioned on July 16, 1989. It was being towed on four pontoons from its base in the town of Gremikha to a plant in Polarnye where workers were to unload the nuclear fuel and scrap the vessel.

The pontoons were torn off by the fierce storm, and the submarine sank in 560 feet of water, the ministry said.

More information about the November class can be found here.

The sheer numbers mentioned in this next bit astound me.

Russia has decommissioned about 189 nuclear-powered submarines over the past 15 years. However, officials say 126 of those are still are at docks with nuclear fuel in their reactors, prompting international concern about leaks and the possibility of nuclear materials being transferred to other nations or terrorists.

It will cost $3.9 billion to scrap all the subs, Russian officials say. Yet last year, the Russian government budgeted just $70 million for improving nuclear safety in the country as a whole.

Scary.

Update: Random Nuclear Strikes (how can you not love a name like that) also talks about this story, and the comments are especially good.

Posted by: Ted at 10:20 AM | category: Military
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