The Nuclear Submarines at the Bottom of the Ocean

Nine nuclear submarines have been lost to the depths of the ocean, either due to accidents or intentional sinking. The Soviet Navy has lost five, the Russian Navy two, and the United States Navy two. Of the nine, two were caused by fires, two by weapons explosions, two by floods, one by bad weather, and one by a damaged nuclear reactor. The cause of the sinking of the USS Scorpion remains unknown.

Eight of these submarines are located in the Northern Hemisphere, five in the Atlantic Ocean and three in the Arctic Ocean. The ninth submarine, K-429, was lifted and returned to active service after its two sinks. Unfortunately, the loss of power on board and difficult weather conditions were too much for the crew to overcome. On April 12th, K-8 sank with about forty crew members on board, resting at a depth of approximately 15,000 feet.

The depth made any effort to recover the submarine and nuclear torpedoes impractical. For example, in Andreyeva Bay, 600,000 tons of toxic water leaked into the Barents Sea from a nuclear storage pool in 1982. Spent fuel from more than 100 submarines was partially stored in oxidized containers under open air. Donors are discussing Russia's request for help financing the project, said Balthasar Lindauer, director of nuclear safety at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).The Soviets worked on a long-range nuclear torpedo (called the T-1), which could attack NATO naval bases from distances of up to 40 km. With a draft decree published in March, President Vladimir Putin launched an initiative to lift two Soviet nuclear submarines and four reactor compartments from the silty bottom, reducing the amount of radioactive material in the Arctic Ocean by 90%.

Although the Soviet submarine K-129 (Golf II) carried nuclear ballistic missiles when it sank, it was a diesel-electric submarine and is not on this list. However, another nuclear submarine sank during what Russian newspapers called “the damn month of August” but caused little furor compared to that of Kursk. Nuclear submarines are weapons that must be used with great care due to their potential for damage to nature and personnel caused by their nuclear reactors. The two nuclear submarines contain one million curios of radiation - about a quarter of that released in the first month of the Fukushima disaster - and will pose an even greater challenge. As long as Rosatom - Russia's civil agency - is in charge of cleanup efforts, there is little incentive for the Russian military to stop this nuclear wave according to Nilsen. Unlike other countries' waste disposal practices, Soviet nuclear waste was also dumped into the sea and now attention has shifted there. However, unlike other submarines on this list, K-8 was powered by two nuclear reactors and carried four torpedoes with nuclear warheads. Although details remain scarce, there was apparently no opportunity to safely remove these four K-8 nuclear torpedoes and transfer them to a repair ship.

November's weather conditions were too loud for any plausible attempt to get close enough to a NATO port to fire a nuclear torpedo during wartime. The nuclear leak that occurred when a Russian special-purpose pocket submarine sank last year increased concerns about its effects on nature.

Jerald Shiiba
Jerald Shiiba

Professional tv junkie. General zombie lover. Professional pop cultureaholic. Infuriatingly humble music scholar. Freelance travel maven.

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