Nuclear submarines are often seen as a source of danger due to their use of nuclear power. However, the truth is that these vessels are actually quite safe. The compartments of nuclear submarines are made of thick steel walls that are highly resistant to damage. Additionally, the reactors are cooled with an unlimited supply of water, and the nuclear cores of the torpedoes are made of uranium and plutonium that are not soluble in water.
This means that these submarines are not as dangerous as they may seem, even if they have become corroded over time. For example, in Andreyeva Bay, 600,000 tons of toxic water leaked into the Barents Sea from a nuclear storage pool in 1982. The spent fuel from more than 100 submarines was stored in oxidized containers under open air. The onboard nuclear reactor of the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier powered by two nuclear reactors, is operational and docked near San Diego, California. The Komsomolets, a Russian nuclear attack submarine launched in 1983 from Severodvinsk, sank during the “damn month of August” in 1989. The wreck of this submarine emits high levels of radiation, according to a joint Russian and Norwegian research team. The Naval Nuclear Laboratory website provides information on the Naval Reactor Installation.
The Oregon Department of Energy works with the Navy to ensure the safe passage of barges carrying nuclear waste. The Washington State Department of Ecology has a website that provides information on the Hanford program and other Washington State nuclear waste programs. The next nuclear cleanup is expected to be the largest of its kind in history and will involve two nuclear submarines that contain one million curios of radiation - approximately a quarter of what was released during the first month of the Fukushima disaster. Donors are discussing Russia's request for help financing this project, according to Balthasar Lindauer, director of nuclear safety at the EBRD. It is important to note that several nuclear submarines have already been destroyed in terrible accidents. The nuclear reactor compartment is shielded to protect the crew from radiation released by the reactor and crew access is prohibited during reactor operation. As President Putin works to clean up the Soviet nuclear legacy in the Far North, he is also creating a new nuclear legacy for Russia.
It is clear that nuclear submarines can be dangerous if not handled properly, but with proper safety protocols and maintenance they can be a safe and reliable form of transportation.