Short of funds and more than a little resourceful, a conscript aboard one of the Northern Fleet ‘s nuclear-powered submarines decided to pillage its reactor room for 24 lengths of wire, the Murmansk daily, Polyarnaya Pravda reported.
The coiled palladium-vanadium wire is used in the communications systems of vital control devices and when removed prevent the installation from being operated.
The incident occurred on 26 January, 1999, at Vidyaevo submarine base on the Kola Peninsula. The following day, the conscript sold the wire to a petty officer from a submarine moored nearby for $45.
Knowing the real value of the wire, the petty-officer intended to sell it for a bigger price, but both were caught on 31 January. The conscript was put in custody and is awaiting a trial. The Military Prosecutor Office at Vidyaevo investigated the case.
Vidyaevo is a base for Akula class submarines – the most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarines in the Russian Navy. Some laid up submarines of Echo-II and Charlie-II classes are reportedly stationed there as well. The article said the sub was ‘active,’ making it likely the incident occurred aboard an Akula class sub. The Military Prosecutor’s Office at Vidayevo said the submarine could only be repaired at a shipyard.
According to Bellona naval affairs expert, Aleksandr Nikitin, the incident did not present any immediate nuclear danger, but the very fact it occurred is alarming.
"The sailor could easily have entered the reactor control room and started the reactor itself, if his mind was into it," Nikitin said.
In September, 1998, another conscript shot eight of his mates and hijacked an Akula class submarine at Skalisty on the Kola Peninsula. The conscript barricaded himself in a torpedo compartment, threatening to blow the whole thing up. A twenty-three hour stand off ended when Special Forces stormed the compartment, killing the conscript.