20 men killed on a Russian nuclear submarine

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20 men killed on a Russian nuclear submarine

Postby The Dieselduck » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:49 am

Bad training blamed for submarine deaths

Some of the 20 men killed on a Russian nuclear submarine this weekend may have died because they lacked adequate training in how to respond in a fire drill, a former submarine officer said.

Russian prosecutors said the victims on board the Nerpa nuclear submarine died from asphyxiation when the fire extinguishing system was set off unexpectedly, releasing toxic freon gas - used as a fire suppressant - into the submarine.

The accident, the worst to hit Russia's navy since an explosion on the Kursk submarine eight years ago killed all 118 sailors on board, raised questions about the capability of the Russian military.

Alexander Nikitin, a former navy captain who worked as a chief engineer on Russian nuclear submarines, said civilian technicians on board the vessel to take part in sea trials may have not known how to react when the gas was released.

"When the system for releasing fire suppressant is switched on, an alarm sounds, but they may not have heard the alarm or understood it was an alarm to indicate fire suppressant is being released into the compartment," Nikitin told Reuters.

"Since it is quite a rare alarm, they could have assumed it was some kind of different alarm," said Nikitin, who now monitors nuclear safety in Russia for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona.

Nikitin said everyone on board the vessel would have had access to breathing apparatus. "Most likely, they did not use it according to the procedures or as they were supposed to."

The governor of Russia's Primorye region on the Pacific coast, where the vessel docked after the accident happened, on Monday declared November 11 a day of mourning in the region.

A Russian navy spokesman declined to comment further on the accident, which happened on Saturday in the Pacific Ocean.
About two thirds of the 208 people on board the submarine were civilians checking the vessel before handing it over to the navy for active service. Civilians accounted for 17 of the 20 dead.

"In the chaos that you have on these kinds of sea trials with a handover team, lots of things can happen," said Nikitin. "These are not military people who strictly follow instructions.

"In situations like these, there is a danger of more serious incidents, there are always heightened risks."
The navy did not identify the submarine. Russian news agencies quoted naval sources as saying it was the Nerpa, classified by Nato as an Akula-class attack submarine.


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Re: 20 men killed on a Russian nuclear submarine

Postby JK » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:58 am

toxic freon gas

Halon perhaps?

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Re: 20 men killed on a Russian nuclear submarine

Postby Madzng » Sat Nov 15, 2008 3:36 pm

A total ban of Halon was never introduced, becasue there is no real alternative. Ships already fitted with Halon could keep and refill bottles, although no more Halon 1301 has been made for a few years. The US military also refused to stop fitting Halon systems for the same reasons. A lot of private yachts are being built with a very similar product to Halon 1301.

A CO2 system works by oxygen displacement and requires a concentration of 36% or more in a space to extinguish a fire. Halon breaks down the chemical reactions which make fire possible, for this reason the Halon concentration required to extinguish a fire is only 6%. The low concentration of Halon if released into the protected space has no affect on the Human body (the byproduct of its reaction with fire/heat is toxic).

For a 5 000 m3 space roughly 3 591 kg of CO2, with a system weight of 10 300 kg, the equivalent Halon system requires 3 600 kg of Halon and system weight of 2 160 kg.

The article below, mentions that the gas released was Freon. Other than oxygen displacement I can think of no reason to use this gas. Maybe they take it from the Air Conditioning system to save space. Freon is also toxic if broken down by heat.

Latest from the BBC website

A sailor has been charged for setting off a firefighting system on a Russian nuclear submarine that released gas, killing 20 people, investigators say.

They say the suspect - who has not been named - activated the system "without authorisation and for no reason".

They say the man "has already admitted his error", but some officials have cast doubt on the announcement.

Twenty people, mostly civilians, died when freon gas was released on the Nerpa attack submarine on Saturday.

In all, three servicemen and 17 civilians were killed and another 21 people were injured during sea trials in the Sea of Japan.


"The suspect faces charges of negligence for causing the deaths of two or more people," said Vladimir Markin, representative of the prosecutor general's office.

However, Mr Markin declined to give any details about the accident.

If found guilty, the sailor could be jailed for seven years.

But a member of Russia's Public Chamber, which oversees the government and parliament, expressed concern about the speed with which the investigators announced that they had found the culprit.

Anatoly Kucherena said the law stipulated there should be a thorough investigation and collection of evidence followed by a trial in court at which any suspects would be found either guilty or innocent.

Several defence experts have also expressed fears that the sailor might be a scapegoat, and one member of the Nerpa's crew was quoted by Russia's Interfax news agency as saying that his colleague could have made a confession under pressure.

The Nerpa, or Akula-class, submarine had more than 200 people aboard, 81 of them service personnel, when the accident happened.

On Wednesday, officials said that preliminary investigations suggested that the "unsanctioned activation" of the automatic firefighting system caused the tragedy.

Freon gas displaces oxygen from the air to put out a fire.

There has been speculation that overcrowding and the presence of so many civilians aboard the vessel may have contributed to the death toll - but this has not been confirmed by the investigators.

Survivor's account

Several survivors later recalled the terrifying seconds after the gas started filling some sections of the submarine.

Viktor Rifk said he managed to put a gas mask on time

"I was lying down resting after being on watch. Suddenly the freon gas started coming down right above me. It was like a drug. I lost consciousness," said Viktor Rifk, an engineer, quoted by the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper on Tuesday.

"We all had gas masks but maybe some people didn't manage to put them on in time," Mr Rifk later told Russia's NTV television.

A number of the people were sleeping when the accident happened, and reports in Russian media suggested that some of them were too dazed to put on gas masks.

Several former Russian mariners have suggested that the civilian personnel - engineers and shipyard workers - may have lacked experience in handling the breathing apparatus.

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Re: 20 men killed on a Russian nuclear submarine

Postby The Dieselduck » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:27 am

You know you stole the words and thoughts right out of my mind Madzng. I have been oh humming about this tragedy since I heard about it. I was going to make a blog entry about it, but eventually just decided to make a post in this area of the forum, and not dwell on the reasoning of the accident or its explanation.

Someone has gotten their facts wrong, or there is deliberate misleading statements made at the source - the Russian navy. I figure it was a missed translation because every news piece keeps mentioning Freon, all from reputable news sources (if one does even exist anymore), but I was skeptical about that kind of translation mistake being made there. We obviously know that is very little use of Freon in fire protection (as far as I know) so the news must be getting their information from a very limited sources, one that perhaps has made an error, or those sources are issuing or distributing misleading information on purpose.

There are many factors that come into play on the technical side of the theory, and many more on the political side, so I just chose to ignore the glaring fact that I have never heard of a freon firefighting system and that one such system even exist. Obviously there is some homework that needs to be done at the news organizations, either a simple translation or a cover up of something more important. With nuclear submarines of a powerful navy, one must assume no theory is remotely off limits.

Again this news story below, which makes even less sense, a temperature sensor setting, warming up a space so fast that it sets off a fire suppression system. In my experience the worst case of scenario of this, is an alarm going off, not the smothering system. Very strange how they are explaining this away, in Wikipedia they list Freon used in automatic firefighting system, I would be curious to see such a system or even its manufacturer.

Crew member 'tampered with temperature sensor on Nerpa sub'
14:30, 17/ 11/ 2008 (http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081117/118352822.html)

MOSCOW, November 17 (RIA Novosti) - The deaths of 20 people on board the Russian nuclear submarine the Nerpa were caused by a crew member entering the wrong data into a temperature sensor, the Kommersant paper said on Monday. (INFOgraphics)

The business daily said, quoting a source close to the investigation, that sailor Dmitry Grobov is suspected of having entered the wrong temperature data for the submarine's living quarters, which caused the fire safety system to release Freon gas.

The source said that according to information obtained from the sub's Rotor data block, similar to an aircraft's black-box, "the temperature...increased sharply all of sudden and the fire safety system reacted as programmed."

The daily said that at the time of the incident Grobov was on a scheduled watch and the access code to the fire safety system was written in pencil on the surface of the equipment.

The tragedy occurred late on November 8 while the Nerpa was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan. Three submariners and 17 shipyard workers died in the accident. There were 208 people, 81 of them submariners, on board the vessel at the time.

However, former Navy officers have told the paper they doubt that Grobov was solely to blame as it is impossible for one person to activate the system, which is protected from unauthorized activation by multiple levels of confirmation.

The submarine's reactor was not affected by the accident, which took place in the nose of the submarine, and radiation levels on board remained normal.

Investigators earlier announced that they had brought criminal charges against the crew member, and that he faced up to seven years in jail.

"Military investigators have determined the person who activated, without permission or any particular reason, a fire safety system on board the submarine. He is a sailor from the crew, and he has already confessed," Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, said on November 13.

The incident is the worst for the Russian Navy since the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000 when all 118 sailors died.

The construction of the Akula II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine started in 1991, but was suspended for over a decade due to a lack of funding. Akula II class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of all Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Based in the Russian Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the Amur Shipbuilding Plant has built 270 vessels, including the Nerpa and another 55 nuclear submarines since it was established in 1936.
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