The fire aboard “Yekaterinburg” could have developed into the worst anthropogenic catastrophe since Chernobyl. The submarine had up to 16 intercontinental “Sineva” missiles, each carrying four nuclear warheads, and 12 torpedoes on board when the fire broke out, Kommersant reports.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov immediately after the fire said that all weapons had been unloaded from the submarine before she was taken into the dry dock for repair.
Users of social media in Murmansk, Severomorsk and Roslyakovo on the other hand wrote that all weapons were on board during the accident.
Weapons should according to safety regulations be removed from docked nuclear subs but the final decision often lies with commanders. Unloading can take up to two weeks, which can delay scheduled maneuvers. This might result in disrupting Russia’s nuclear parity with the United States, the paper writes.
Right after the fire had been put out, “Yekaterinburg”, went to the Northern Fleet’s main storage bases for nuclear weapons in Okolnaya Bay and Yagelnaya Bay. The only reason for this move would be to unload the missiles and torpedoes, Kommersant writes, citing several sources in the leadership of the Navy and the Northern Fleet.
According to the first official reports from the accident the fire only harmed the outer rubber coating of the submarine. Soon pictures and videos began appearing on blogs and social media that showed the fire was far more severe than the officials said.