Nuclear submarine catches fire at Russian shipyard

A Russian nuclear submarine named Orel caught fire while undergoing repair at a naval shipyard in Severodvinsk.

According to Russia’s state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), the Oscar II-class submarine, which is capable of carrying nuclear-tipped cruise and anti-submarine missiles, caught fire while welding works are being done.

No one was injured in the blaze, the USC told the state-run news agency ITAR-Tass, as workers in the shipyard were promptly evacuated.

The shipyard’s own firefighters struggled for almost three hours to put out the fire. They later decided to let water into the dry dock to partly submerge the burning vessel  to extinguish the flames.

The Orel nuclear submarine catches fire while undergoing welding works. Photo Credit: PBS
The Orel nuclear submarine catches fire while undergoing welding works.
Photo Credit: PBS

USC spokesman, Ilya Zhitomirsky, said the rubber insulation between the submarine’s light and pressure hull caught fire while welding work was being done

“Everyone was promptly evacuated. Basically, it’s just rubber burning,” the spokesman said.

The USC issued a statement saying there is no danger of environmental or radioactive contamination as a result of the fire. It stated that the nuclear weapons on board and the Orel’s nuclear reactor had been shut down prior to the blaze.

The Orel has been in the shipyard for repair since 2013. The active zone of the reactor had been unloaded before the repair work started.

The Russian criminal investigation agency launched a probe to look into possible safety violations during repair works that caused the fire.

In the past, several nuclear submarines were damaged by fire during repair works due to negligence and violations of safety rules.

Four years ago, a massive fire broke up on the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine while undergoing repair. Firefighters took 20 hours before containing the fire. Nine shipyard workers needed to be hospitalized due to inhalation of noxious fumes.