Sergei Preminin

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Sergei Preminin
Born (1965-10-18)October 18, 1965
Skornyakovo, Vologda Oblast
Died October 3, 1986(1986-10-03) (aged 20)
K-219, North Atlantic
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Navy
Years of service 1984 - 1986
Rank Seaman
Awards Order of the Red Star
Hero of the Russian Federation
Order For Merit to the Fatherland

Sergei Anatolievich Preminin (Russian: Сергей Анатольевич Преминин, 18 October 1965 – 3 October 1986) was a Russian sailor who sacrificed his life on the nuclear submarine K-219 when he manually prevented an impending nuclear meltdown by means of a reactor SCRAM.[1]


Preminin's father was an electrician and his mother worked in a flax factory. The couple had three sons. Sergei attended school in the city of Krasavino and decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Nicholas by graduating from engineering school in Veliky Ustyug in the Vologda Oblast.

On 23 October 1984, Sergei was drafted into the Soviet Navy. He served on the K-219, a Soviet strategic nuclear-powered submarine.


On 3 October 1986, while on patrol 680 miles (1,090 km) northeast of Bermuda, the K-219 suffered an explosion and fire in missile compartment VI.[2] Three sailors were killed outright in the explosion. The vessel surfaced to permit its twin nuclear reactors to be shut down.

The remaining crew was assigned to the bow or the stern, as far away from the explosion site as possible, and had been issued gas masks. Soon after, the temperature indicator showed a very high temperature at the nuclear reactors, the flow of coolant in the reactor gradually decreased further. This meant that a meltdown was imminent. However, the reactor shutdown could not proceed as planned from the control station; the trigger of the control rods had been damaged, by either the expanding gases or the intense heat. For this reason, the reactor SCRAM had to be carried out manually, directly into the reactor chamber. This also meant that the men doing this would be exposed to strong radiation, since the on-board contamination coveralls were not designed to protect the sailors from the strong gamma and neutron radiation directly in the vicinity of the reactor core.

The officer of the reactor department, Nikolay Belikov, and his subordinate - sailor Sergei Preminin - went into the reactor chamber to complete the reactor SCRAM.[3] They dropped three of four rods, but because of the high temperature (about 70°C or 158°F) Belikov lost consciousness. Preminin had to put the fourth rod in place. This was a job that required great physical strength, as the holders of the rods were now severely deformed by the heat.[4]

When he tried to leave the reactor chamber, he could not open the hatch, as a pressure difference had been established between the reactor chamber and the reactor control station. After further attempts from other colleagues to force open the hatch from outside, Preminin died in the hot reactor chamber, as the rest of the crew had to move further towards the rear to escape the poisonous gases that spread out in the boat.


The sinking of the submarine and Preminin's feat were the subject for the book Hostile Waters, written by Peter Huchthausen, Igor Kurdin and R. Alan White. The BBC produced a television movie of the same name in the same year, under the direction of David Drury of Warner Bros. Rob Campbell played the role of Preminin.


Military Awards[edit]

  • Order of the Red Star (posthumously) by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (23 July 1987).[3]
  • Hero of Russia (posthumously), Medal #409, President's decree number 844 of 7 August 1997.[3][4]
  • Medal of the Order of service to the Fatherland I degree (31 October 2003, posthumously).[3]


  • In the city of Gadzhiyevo, a monument was erected, and a road and two schools were named after him.
  • In the city of Krasawino, a monument was erected in his honor.
  • In Preminin's native Skornyakovo, a marble plaque commemorates his heroism with an inscription that reads: "To Russian Seaman Sergei Preminin, who has saved the world from a nuclear catastrophe."[5]


In Vologda in 2004 named a street in south part of city in memory of Sergey. In Vologda oblast 2 school named in memory of Sergey (one school in hometown Krasavino)


  1. ^ [1] Vologda Oblast Government web site Archived November 7, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ [2] Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1997
  3. ^ a b c d [3] International Submariner, September 2011
  4. ^ a b [4] War Heroes of Russia(in Russian)
  5. ^ [5] VOLOGODIANS Archived November 7, 2011 at the Wayback Machine