Submarine on fire in Murmansk suburb

Publish date: October 23, 2002

Written by: Igor Kudrik

A nuclear powered submarine, undergoing decommissioning at a naval shipyard in a suburb of Murmansk, caught fire.

A nuclear powered submarine, which has not been identified, caught fire at 9:21 Moscow time on October 23rd. The submarine was undergoing decommissioning at Sevmorput shipyard located in the north of Murmansk city at the Kola Peninsula.

The fire started on the wood scaffolding in the dry dock surrounding the submarine, and then spread to the rubber coating of the submarine.

Six fire engines arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire in two hours, by 11:10 Moscow time, said local Civil Defence representative to the Interfax new agency.

Negligent welding works reportedly caused the fire.

Although the submarine was not identified, there is reason to believe that the vessel was a first generation Echo-II class submarine (K-22). This submarine was defuelled at Sevmorput by the Imandra support vessel in summer 2001. Imandra is run by Murmansk Shipping Company, a commercial operator of nuclear powered icebreakers.

No release of radiation or causalities was reported.

There were four first generation submarines moored at Sevmorput waiting to be decommissioned: one Hotel class (K-145) defuelled in 1995, one November class (defuelling time unclear) and two Echo-II class submarines — K-22 defuelled in summer 2001 and K-128/62 defuelled this summer.

Shipyard No. 35 — Sevmorput


Naval yard No. 35 Sevmorput is also a Northern Fleet naval repair yard located on the Murmansk Fjord in the Rosta district of Murmansk, between the nuclear icebreaker base Atomflot and the merchant harbour. In addition to several large workshops, the yard operates two large dry docks. Until the end of the 1980s, the yard employed 5,500 workers, but today the number of employees is much smaller. Sevmorput has been repairing first generation nuclear submarines since the close of the 1960s, and until 1991, the refuelling of nuclear submarines was also undertaken here. Today the shipyard also carries out repairs of second generation submarines. In 1991, county officials prohibited refuelling activities at this yard on the grounds of radiation safety concerns and the fact that the yard is located only a few hundred meters from more populous areas of the city. Defuelling activities were later resumed on the condition that a so-called dry defuelling method is used, whereby the cooling water is pumped out from the reactor. The civilian nuclear service ship Imandra is likely to perform the defuelling operations at the shipyard in the future.