Soviet submarine K-131
|Class and type:||Echo II-class submarine|
Design and description
The Echo II class was a nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine, which could carry up to eight anti-ship missiles, designed to strike any aircraft carrier-borne nuclear threat. The missiles could be either conventional or nuclear and all eight fired within twenty minutes. The submarine would need to be surfaced and carried an array of electronics, radar and sonar to feed data to the missile while en route to its target. K-131 also had six 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes forward and four 406 mm (16 in) torpedo tubes aft.
With a displacement of 5,000 tons when surfaced and 6,000 tons when submerged, K-131 was 115 metres (377 ft) long and had a beam of 9 metres (30 ft) and a draft of 7.5 metres (25 ft). She was powered by two pressurized-water nuclear reactors generating 30,000 shaft horsepower (22,000 kW) through two propellers for a maximum speed of 20 to 23 knots (37 to 43 km/h; 23 to 26 mph). She was manned by about 90 crew members.
On 25 June 1989, while under the command of Captain First Rank E. Selivanov, K-131 suffered a catastrophic fire while on patrol in the Norwegian Sea off the Kola Peninsula. A short circuit in an electrical switchboard in the eighth compartment ignited the clothes of an electrical officer, and spread first to other equipment in that compartment, then into the seventh compartment. Before it was extinguished, the fire had killed 13 men.
The fire affected one of the two reactors, forcing the submarine to surface. Using K-131's fresh water supplies, the submarine′s crew managed to reduce the temperature in the burning compartments from 150 °C (302 °F) to 108 °C (226 °F), but by this time the Soviet cargo ship Konstantin Yuon had arrived and hooked up a pipe to help. All the cooling water went into the ocean, and its radioactivity levels were unknown. The service ship Amur, which had a nuclear waste processing plant on board, then arrived to assist K-131. However, the heavily contaminated water caused Amur′s treatment plant to break down. How much nuclear waste leaked into the ocean has never been fully verified.
After returning to the Soviet Union, K-131 was anchored in Ara Bay until 1994. when she was towed to the naval shipyard in Shkval. To this day[when?] the Soviet, and later Russian, navies have been unable to remove her reactors.
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