Nuclear Watch: Russia submerges nuclear submarine to douse blaze

Posted on December 30, 2011

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(Reuters) – Russia said it had brought a blaze aboard a nuclear submarine under control on Friday by partially submerging the vessel at a naval shipyard, after hours of dousing the flames with water from helicopters and tug boats.

The submarine’s nuclear reactors had been shut down and posed no danger, officials said. However, nine people were injured when fighting the fire and taken to hospital.

Television pictures showed a plume of black smoke above the yard in the Murmansk region of northern Russia as over 100 firemen struggled to put out the flames which witnesses said rose 10 meters (30 feet) above the Yekaterinburg submarine.

“The fire has been localized,” Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told officials leading the firefighting effort from an emergencies control room in Moscow, more than nine hours after the blaze began at 1220 GMT on Thursday.

Shoigu’s comments indicate the fire was still burning but that efforts to sink the submarine partially at the dock had succeeded in reducing the intensity of the flames.

“There are no open flames. A fire crew is still at the scene pouring water over the outer hull as well as the space between the inner and outer hulls of the submarine,” said an unnamed Defense Ministry source, speaking to Interfax.

The governor of the Murmansk region, Dmitry Dmitrienko, said the submarine’s two nuclear reactors had been shut down. All weapons had been removed from the 167-metre (550 feet) Yekaterinburg, which launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Barents Sea as recently as July.

“Radiation levels are normal,” a spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry said.

Reuters

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