How Just 1 Simple Design Flaw Destroyed an Experimental Russian Attack Submarine

    Dave Majumdar

    Security,

    When K-27 was first laid-down on June 15, 1958, she was the first Soviet submarine designed with a pair of novel lead-bismuth cooled reactors.

    All 144 members of the crew had been exposed to radiation—with nine eventually dying of from radiation poisoning. K-27 was permanently laid-up soon after in June 1968, though the Soviets carried out various experiments onboard the vessel until 1973. K-27 was eventually decommissioned February 1979 and then scuttled in very shallow water—just 99ft deep—in the Kara Sea on Sept. 6, 1982, where she remains as a ticking environmental time bomb. Indeed, the problem is so grave that many environmental scientists believe that the submarine must be retrieved and disposed of properly.

    Based on the November-class (Project 627 Kit) submarines, the ill-fated K-27 was the first and only Project 645 nuclear attack boat built by the Soviet Union. Like the United States, the Soviet Union often experimented with advanced technologies that were well ahead of their time. Indeed, with its pair of VT-1 liquid-metal cooled nuclear reactors, K-27 was very much a science project first and an operational attack boat second.

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    When K-27 was first laid-down on June 15, 1958, she was the first Soviet submarine designed with a pair of novel lead-bismuth cooled reactors. While the new reactors were smaller and more powerful than conventional pressurized water reactors, the innovative new powerplants were troublesome from the beginning. Nonetheless, K-27 quickly accumulated an impressive record in Soviet naval service—including one where she became the first Russian nuclear attack boat to remain submerged for 50 straight days.

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