The height of the cold war, all participants surely remember the unimaginable arms race. Both camps tried to outdo each other in the means of destruction that sometimes is not considered victims with his own hand. Exactly 50 years ago in the city with a million people gathered nuclear submarine K-320. Someone switched on a nuclear reactor metal screw caps with plastic. In the end, hundreds of people received huge doses of radiation, rags and mops washing away of radioactive water into the Volga.
If the enemy appeared a dangerous weapon and you can’t do the same, then figure out how to destroy it. Soviet nuclear submarine project 670 “SKAT” were designed to attack enemy aircraft carriers and other large ships in the convoys. In its lethality and modern stuffing the court would have to be small size and relatively low cost. A difficult task was assigned the young design Bureau in the mid-1950s, formed at a shipyard “Red Sormovo” in Gorky (today Nizhny Novgorod).
“Red Sormovo” in our days. Archive photo of the plant
Specifically for this sub was designed cruise missiles “Amethyst”. It was the world’s first cruise missiles from the “wet” underwater launch (before launch of the projectile from an underwater position of the missile and the mine was flooded).
During the design of the fall, as well as other military equipment, had to face many difficulties and, as a consequence, think a lot. But the main thing in our history — a new nuclear reactor. From nuclear submarines of the first generation of novelty was supposed to be more reliable. So, because of the completely redone the cooling system it was believed that when the full de-energizing, or even in the event of a major accident with the new reactor, nothing will happen. But they didn’t consider the human factor.
The first submarine of project 670 “SKAT” was finished in 1966. However, we are interested in the seventh — To-320. It was founded in 1968, and to complete all work in whatever was needed by 22 April 1970. It was a gift of power to the people to the centenary of the birth of Lenin. Naturally, the work was often conducted in an emergency mode.
By early 1970, the K-320 was almost ready. The stocks were located massive, with a length of a hundred meters, the body. Inside has assembled a fully working nuclear reactor. Next door, across the wall, collecting another submarine — K-308. It, however, until ready was far away, and here at K-320 on Sunday, January 18th, was appointed tests of the first loop reactor.
Plastic plugs and deadly radiation
They say to test to really begin not have time. When in the shop there were about 150 workers, all of a sudden there was a hiss and a loud Bang. The ceiling of the shop to a height of about 60 meters soared wrecked submarine, was showered with pieces of metal. Immediately thereafter, participants were sent a fountain of water and steam. As it turned out very soon — radiation in doses close to lethal.
It killed 12 people. But this is not accurate because, as was customary at that time, about similar incidents of people trying to inform, and the Internet had not yet been invented. Strong radioactive emissions recorded foreign tracking stations, and immediately reported to the Soviet side and then on radio stations.
In the shop of the plant “Red Sormovo”. Photo is only illustrative
However, according to Soviet Newspapers did not happen anything extraordinary. Just think, a few shipbuilders burned by steam from the boiler of the ship — it happens to everyone. That on the “Red Sormovo” collect nuclear submarines, know was not supposed to. Few million people in Gorky suspected that the stocks are toys bigger river barges.
However, internal investigation, of course, spent. It turned out that the blame for a confluence of two factors — design errors and human carelessness. In the end, it seems like due to technical flaws a nuclear reactor uncontrolled self-start and immediately went to almost full capacity. Probably would be nothing wrong in this situation not have happened if someone from working in the first system circuit is not supplied is provided by the metal design temporary plastic plugs.
As a result, the reactor worked at maximum power for about 10 seconds, deformed, dropped excess pressure in the form of a powerful jet of radioactive steam and stopped.
Photo is only illustrative
By the way, the role someone installed plastic plugs is not fully understood. I suppose that if in the first loop reactor was installed, as expected, metal plugs, no emission would not be — they were designed for such and even more pressure. There is, however, believed that due to the plastic that broke in the first place, the pressure was partially straulino to the explosion of the reactor is not reached.
Criminal case, found guilty in the face of several of the heads of an average link. However, the matter was soon hushed up, announcing arose at the stage of design errors, and all dismissed back to work.
Whatever it was, had an emergency, which no one is allowed to speak. Besides on the nose was a great celebration of the century of Lenin’s birthday.
Rags to hand
— The day after the incident we were not allowed in the shop. Worked there dosimetrists. And 20 Jan was invited to the meeting. It was attended by academician Aleksandrov, our Minister Butoma, plant Manager St. George. The meeting was chaired by academician Alexandrov, the Creator of this reactor. Behaved he simply said frankly: “Guys, something’s wrong. But you ship builders! Need help quickly be decontaminated. We need you at any time to take this sub. After a year-something special…” — later recalled by Alexander Zaitsev, the chief Builder of the Department of building ships in the factory “Red Sormovo”.
The picture is illustrative. Photo source: National Geographic
According to him, workers of the plant offered 50 rubles for a day shift in a team that had to deal with the accident. Plus lots of food and alcohol — it was thought that this would help fight radiation. At the same time, all we had to receipt of non-disclosure for a period of 25 years.
Bucket, MOP and rag they washed the side of the submarine slipways, floors and walls of the shop. Dosimetrists and then we were tested. If not fonit, well, crackling — perebivay again — noted birds.
He said that contaminated water was leaking into the Volga. Liquidators dressed in a robe, for persons issued special armbands. Was supposed to work four hours. Two such shifts earn $ 100. Great for those times money, especially for ordinary workers.
The picture is illustrative
— …Only three survived… Now I understand why I lost the majority… we Entered first into a huge shop and froze. Dead silence. The silhouettes of the giant submarines. The situation is, frankly, creepy. In the excitement most of us lit up, removing, naturally, of the bandage from his mouth and nose. I’m a non-smoker. Breathing through cheesecloth. We now know how lethal trapped in the lungs of radioactive dust. Then about it, no one thought, — remembers hares.
After the cold war
Formally, the boat still passed on time. Changed the reactor, replaced the hatch by 22 April To a-320 was ready. A year later after all the tests it became part of the first Northern fleet, then Pacific. In 1984, the ship almost sank near the Mariana trench, plunging to significantly below the maximum depth, but the efforts of a team able to climb.
As the remaining ten submarines of project 670 “SKAT” To-320 removed from service in early 1990s and soon disposed of.
One of the submarines managed to serve in the Indian Navy
Shipyard “Red Sormovo” is still functioning. Moreover, it is one of the largest Russian factories of this profile. However, today it’s kind of like not collect military court, preferring bulk carriers, oil tankers and passenger ships.
As for the participants of liquidation of consequences of radioactive release, six years ago it was reported that survivors of the more than one thousand people in less than third, and all disabled. As support measures every month the state pays them about $20 equivalent, and also gives vouchers to sanatoriums and a 50 percent discount on utilities.