K-19 disabled in the North Atlantic on 29 February 1972
|Laid down||17 October 1958|
|Launched||8 April 1959|
|Completed||12 November 1960|
|Commissioned||30 April 1961|
|Decommissioned||19 April 1990|
|Fate||Recycled at Naval Yard 85 Nerpa.|
|Class and type||Hotel-class submarine|
|Length||114 m (374 ft 0 in)|
|Beam||9.2 m (30 ft 2 in)|
|Draft||7.1 m (23 ft 4 in)|
|Propulsion||2 × 70 MW VM-A reactors, 2 geared turbines, 2 shafts, 39,200 shp (29 MW)|
|Endurance||60 days (limited by food, and physical health)|
|Complement||125 officers and men|
K-19 (Russian: К-19) was the first submarine of the Project 658 (Russian: проект-658, lit: Projekt-658) class (NATO reporting name Hotel-class submarine), the first generation of Soviet nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles, specifically the R-13 SLBM. The boat was hastily built by the Soviets in response to United States' developments in nuclear submarines as part of the arms race. Before it was launched, 10 civilian workers and a sailor died due to accidents and fires. After it was commissioned, it had multiple breakdowns and accidents, several of which threatened to sink the submarine.
On its initial voyage on 4 July 1961, it suffered a complete loss of coolant to its reactor. A backup system included in the design was not installed, so the captain ordered members of the engineering crew to find a solution to avoid a nuclear meltdown. Sacrificing their own lives, the engineering crew jury-rigged a secondary coolant system and kept the reactor from a meltdown. Twenty-two crew members died during the following two years. The submarine experienced several other accidents, including two fires and a collision. The series of accidents inspired crew members to nickname the submarine "Hiroshima".
In the late 1950s, the leaders of the Soviet Union were determined to catch up with the United States and began to build a nuclear submarine fleet. The boat was pushed through production and rushed through testing. It suffered from poor workmanship and was accident-prone from the beginning.Many Soviet naval officers felt that the ships were not fit for combat. The crew aboard the first nuclear submarines of the Soviet fleet was provided with a very high quality standard of food including smoked fish, sausages, fine chocolates, and cheeses, unlike the standard fare given the crews of other naval vessels.
K-19 was ordered by the Soviet Navy on 16 October 1957.Her keel was laid on 17 October 1958 at the naval yard in Severodvinsk. Several workers died building the submarine: two workers were killed when a fire broke out, and later six women gluing rubber lining to a water cistern were killed by fumes. While missiles were being loaded, an electrician was crushed to death by a missile-tube cover, and an engineer fell between two compartments and died.
The boat was launched and christened on 8 April 1959.Breaking with tradition, a man (Captain 3rd Rank V. V. Panov of the 5th Urgent Unit) instead of a woman, was chosen to smash the ceremonial champagne bottle across the ship's stern. The bottle failed to break, instead sliding along the propellers and bouncing off the rubber-coated hull. This is traditionally viewed among sea crews as a sign that the ship is unlucky. Captain 1st Rank Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev was the first commander of the submarine. Vasily Arkhipov was the executive officer of the new Hotel-class ballistic missile submarine K-19.
In January 1960, confusion among the crew during a watch change led to improper operation of the reactor and a reactor-control rod was bent. The damage required the reactor to be dismantled for repairs. The officers on duty were removed and Captain Panov was demoted.
The submarine's ensign was hoisted for the first time on 12 July 1960. It underwent sea trials from 13 through 17 July 1960 and again from 12 August through 8 November 1960, travelling 17,347 kilometres (10,779 mi). The ship was considered completed on 12 November 1960. After surfacing from a full-power run, the crew discovered that most of the hull's rubber coating had detached, and the entire surface of the boat had to be re-coated.
During a test dive to the maximum depth of 300 m (980 ft), flooding was reported in the reactor compartment, and Captain Zateyev ordered the submarine to immediately surface, where it heeled over on its port side due to the water it had taken on. It was later determined that during construction the workers had failed to replace a gasket. In October 1960, the galley crew disposed of wood from equipment crates through the galley's waste system, clogging it. This led to flooding of the ninth compartment, which filled one third full of water. In December 1960, a loss of coolant was caused by failure of the main circuit pump. Specialists called from Severodvinsk managed to repair it at sea within a week.[ citation needed ]
The boat was commissioned on 30 April 1961. The submarine had a total of 139 men aboard, including missile men, reactor officers, torpedo men, doctors, cooks, stewards, and several observing officers who were not part of the standard crew.
On 4 July 1961, under the command of Captain First Rank Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev, K-19 was conducting exercises in the North Atlantic off the south-east coast of Greenland. At 04:15 local time the pressure in the starboard nuclear reactor's cooling system dropped to zero. The reactor department crew found a major leak in the reactor coolant system, causing the coolant pumps to fail. The boat could not contact Moscow and request assistance because a separate accident had damaged the long-range radio system. The control rods were automatically inserted by the emergency SCRAM system, but the reactor temperature rose uncontrollably. Decay heat from fission products produced during normal operation eventually heated the reactor to 800 °C (1,470 °F).
Making a drastic decision, Zateyev ordered the engineering section to fabricate a new coolant system by cutting off an air vent valve and welding a water-supply pipe to it. This required men to work in high radiation for extended periods. The jury-rigged cooling water system successfully reduced the temperature in the reactor.
The accident released radioactive steam containing fission products that were drawn into the ship's ventilation system and spread to other compartments of the ship. The entire crew was irradiated as was most of the ship and some of the ballistic missiles on board. All seven members of the engineering crew and their divisional officer died of radiation exposure within the next month. Fifteen more sailors died within the next two years.
Instead of continuing on the mission's planned route, the captain decided to head south to meet diesel-powered submarines expected to be there. Worries about a potential crew mutiny prompted Zateyev to have all small arms thrown overboard except for five pistols distributed to his most trusted officers. A diesel submarine, S-270, picked up K-19's low-power distress transmissions and joined up with it.
American warships nearby had also heard the transmission and offered to help, but Zateyev, afraid of giving away Soviet military secrets to the West, refused and sailed to meet S-270. He evacuated the crew and had the boat towed to its home base.
Over the next two years, repair crews removed and replaced the damaged reactors. The repair process contaminated the nearby environment, in a zone within 700 m (2,300 ft), and the repair crew. The Soviet Navy dumped the original radioactive compartment into the Kara Sea. K-19 returned to the fleet with the nickname "Hiroshima".
According to the government's official explanation of the disaster, the repair crews discovered that the catastrophe had been caused by a faulty welding incident during initial construction. They discovered that during installation of the primary cooling system piping, a welder had failed to cover exposed pipe surfaces with asbestos drop cloths (required to protect piping systems from accidental exposure to welding sparks), due to the cramped working space. A drop from a welding electrode fell on an unprotected surface, producing an invisible crack. This crack was subject to prolonged and intensive pressure (over 200 atmospheres), compromising the pipe's integrity and finally causing it to fail.
Others disputed this conclusion. Retired Rear-Admiral Nikolai Mormul asserted that when the reactor was first started ashore, the construction crew had not attached a pressure gauge to the primary cooling circuit. Before anyone realized there was a problem, the cooling pipes were subjected to a pressure of 400 atmospheres, double the acceptable limit.
On 1 February 2006, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev proposed in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee that the crew of K-19 be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for their actions on 4 July 1961.
Several crew members received fatal doses of radiation during repairs on the reserve coolant system of Reactor #8. Eight died between one and three weeks after the accident from severe radiation sickness. A person who receives a dose of 4 to 5 Sv (about 400-500 rem) over a short period has a 50% chance of dying within 30 days.
|Name||Rank||Dose of radiation||Date of death||Days survived|
|Boris Korchilov||Lieutenant||54 Sv (Sievert) = 5400 rem||10 July 1961||6|
|Boris Ryzhikov||Chief Starshina||8.6 Sv||25 July 1961||21|
|Yuriy Ordochkin||Starshina, 1st class||11 Sv||10 July 1961||6|
|Evgeny Kashenkov||Starshina, 2nd class||10 Sv||10 July 1961||6|
|Semyon Penkov||Seaman||10 Sv||18 July 1961||14|
|Nicolai Savkin||Seaman||11 Sv||13 July 1961||9|
|Valery Charitonov||Seaman||11 Sv||15 July 1961||11|
|Yuriy Povstyev|| Captain Lieutenant , |
Commander of the division of movement
|7.5 Sv||22 July 1961||18|
Fourteen other crew members died within two years. Many other crew members also received radiation doses exceeding permissible levels.They underwent medical treatment during the following year. Many others experienced chest pains, numbness, cancer, and kidney failure. Their treatment was devised by Professor Z. Volynskiy and included bone marrow transplantation and blood transfusion. It saved, among others, Chief Lieutenant Mikhail Krasichkov and Captain 3rd class Vladimir Yenin, who had received doses of radiation that were otherwise considered deadly. For reasons of secrecy, the official diagnosis was not "radiation sickness" but "astheno-vegetative syndrome", a mental disorder.
On 6 August 1961, 26 members of the crew were decorated for courage and valor shown during the accident.[ citation needed ]
This section needs additional citations for verification .(November 2019)
On 14 December 1961, the boat was fully upgraded to the Hotel II (658м) variant, which included upgrading to R-21 missiles, which had twice the effective range of the earlier missiles.
At 07:13 on 15 November 1969, K-19 collided with the attack submarine USS Gato in the Barents Sea at a depth of 60 m (200 ft). It was able to surface using an emergency main ballast tank blow. The impact completely destroyed the bow sonar systems and mangled the covers of the forward torpedo tubes. K-19 was able to return to port where it was repaired and returned to the fleet. Gato was relatively undamaged and continued her patrol.
On 24 February 1972, a fire broke out while the submarine was at a depth of 120 m (390 ft), some 1,300 km (700 nmi; 810 mi) from Newfoundland, Canada. The boat surfaced and the crew was evacuated to surface warships except for 12 men trapped in the aft torpedo room. Towing was delayed by a gale, and rescuers could not reach the aft torpedo room because of conditions in the engine room. The fire killed 28 sailors aboard K-19 and two others who died after they were transferred to rescue ships. Investigators determined that the fire was caused by a hydraulic fluid leak onto a hot filter.
The rescue operation lasted more than 40 days and involved over 30 ships. From 15 June through 5 November 1972, K-19 was repaired and put back into service.
On 15 November 1972, another fire broke out in compartment 6, but it was put out by the chemical fire-extinguisher system and there were no casualties.
On 25 July 1977, K-19 was reclassified in the Large Submarine class, and on 26 July 1979, she was reclassified as a communications submarine and given the symbol KS-19 (КС-19). On 15 August 1982, an electrical short circuit resulted in severe burns to two sailors; one, V. A. Kravchuk, died five days later.
On 28 November 1985, the ship was upgraded to the 658s (658с) variant.
On 19 April 1990 the submarine was decommissioned, and was transferred in 1994 to the naval repair yard at Polyarny. In March 2002, it was towed to the Nerpa Shipyard, Snezhnogorsk, Murmansk, to be scrapped.
In 2006, a section of K-19 was purchased by Vladimir Romanov, who once served on the submarine as a conscript, with the intention of "Turning it into a Moscow-based meeting place to build links between submarine veterans from Russia and other countries." So far, the plans remain on hold, and many of K-19's survivors have objected to them.
In 1969 writer Vasily Aksyonov wrote a play about the nuclear incident.
The movie K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, is based on the story of the K-19's first disaster. However, the real participants of these events wrote an open letter to the movie makers to ask them not to show fake cowardice and a fake revolt which were a fictionalized part of the plot and bore no resemblance to the actual events, but their request was ignored by the producers.[ citation needed ] The production company attempted in March 2002 to secure access to the boat as a set for its production, but the Russian Navy declined. The nickname "The Widowmaker" referred to by the movie was fictional. The submarine did not gain a nickname until the nuclear accident on 4 July 1961, when it was called "Hiroshima".
K-219 was a Project 667A Navaga-class ballistic missile submarine of the Soviet Navy. It carried 16 R-27U liquid-fuel missiles powered by UDMH with nitrogen tetroxide (NTO), and equipped with either 32 or 48 nuclear warheads. K-219 was involved in what has become one of the most controversial submarine incidents during the Cold War on Friday 3 October 1986. The 15-year-old vessel, which was on an otherwise routine Cold War nuclear deterrence patrol in the North Atlantic 1,090 kilometres (680 mi) northeast of Bermuda, suffered an explosion and fire in a missile tube. While underway submerged the seal in a missile hatch cover failed, allowing high-pressure seawater to enter the missile tube and owing to the pressure differential rupture the missile fuel tanks, allowing missile's liquid fuel to mix and ultimately combust. Though there was no official announcement, the Soviet Union claimed the leak was caused by a collision with the submarine USS Augusta. Although the Augusta was operating within the area, both the United States Navy and the commander of K-219, Captain Second Rank Igor Britanov, deny that a collision took place.
K-8 was a November-class submarine of the Soviet Northern Fleet that sank in the Bay of Biscay with her nuclear weapons on board on April 12, 1970. A fire on April 8 had disabled the submarine and it was being towed in rough seas. Fifty-two crewmen were killed attempting the salvage of the boat when it sank.
K-19: The Widowmaker is a 2002 historical submarine film directed and produced by Kathryn Bigelow, and produced by Edward S. Feldman, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Christine Whitaker and Matthias Deyle with screenplay by Christopher Kyle. An international production of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, the film takes place in 1961 and focuses its story on the Soviet Hotel-class submarine K-19.
The Hotel class is the general NATO classification for a type of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine that was originally put into service by the Soviet Union around 1959. The Soviet designation was Project 658.
The K-278 Komsomolets was the Project-685 Plavnik, nuclear-powered attack submarine of the Soviet Navy— the only submarine of her design class.
USS Swordfish (SSN-579), a Skate-class nuclear-powered submarine, was the second submarine of the United States Navy named for the swordfish, a large fish with a long, swordlike beak and a high dorsal fin.
The Alfa class, Soviet designation Project 705 Lira, was a class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in service with the Soviet Navy and later with the Russian Navy. They were the fastest military submarines ever built, with only the prototype submarine K-222 exceeding them in submerged speed.
K-27 was the only nuclear submarine of the Soviet Navy's Project 645. It was constructed by placing a pair of experimental VT-1 nuclear reactors that used a liquid-metal coolant into the modified hull of a Project 627A (November-class) vessel. A unique NATO reporting name was not assigned.
The November class, Soviet designation Project 627 Kit was the Soviet Union's first class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, which were in service from 1958 through 1990. All but one have been disposed of, with the K-3, the first nuclear-powered submarine built for the Soviet Navy, being preserved as a memorial ship in Saint Petersburg.
A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor. The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable. Nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for conventional submarines. The large amount of power generated by a nuclear reactor allows nuclear submarines to operate at high speed for long periods of time, and the long interval between refuelings grants a range virtually unlimited, making the only limits on voyage times being imposed by such factors as the need to restock food or other consumables.
K-131 was a Project 675 of the Soviet Navy's Northern Fleet, she was also redesignated K-192.
К-3 was a project 627 "Кит" submarine of the Soviet Navy's Northern Fleet, the first nuclear submarine of the Soviet Union. The vessel was prototyped in wood, with each of five segments scattered between five different locations about Leningrad, including the Astoria Hotel. She was built in Molotovsk, launched on 9 August 1957, commissioned in July 1958, and homeported at Zapadnaya Litsa on the Kola Peninsula. K-3 was designed by Vladimir Peregoudov. Her initial captain was Leonid Osipenko, and the executive officer was Lev Zhiltsov, who had the important task of assembling the first crew.
A nuclear navy, or nuclear-powered navy, refers to the portion of a navy consisting of naval ships powered by nuclear marine propulsion. The concept was revolutionary for naval warfare when first proposed. Prior to nuclear power, submarines were powered by diesel engines and could only submerge through the use of batteries. In order for these submarines to run their diesel engines and charge their batteries they would have to surface or snorkel. The use of nuclear power allowed these submarines to become true submersibles and unlike their conventional counterparts, they became limited only by crew endurance and supplies.
The Echo class were nuclear cruise missile submarines of the Soviet Navy built during the 1960s. Their Soviet designation was Project 659 for the first five vessels, and Project 675 for the following twenty-nine. Their NATO reporting names were Echo I and Echo II. All were decommissioned by 1994.
K-429 was a Project 670-A Скат nuclear submarine of the Soviet Navy. Her keel was laid down on 26 January 1971 at Krasnoye Sormovo in Gorky. She was launched on 22 April 1972, and was commissioned on 31 October 1972 into the Soviet Pacific Fleet.
Vasili Aleksandrovich Arkhipov was a Soviet Navy officer credited with preventing a Soviet nuclear strike during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Such an attack likely would have caused a major global thermonuclear response.
Sergey Anatolievich Preminin was a Soviet Russian sailor who, after an explosion aboard nuclear submarine K-219, prevented an impending nuclear meltdown by manually forcing damaged control rods into place. He was, however, unable to exit the reactor compartment because the hatch had jammed due to increased pressure, and died.
Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev was a Russian submariner and a Captain First Rank in the Soviet Navy, notable as the commander of the ill-fated Soviet submarine K-19 in July 1961 during the Hotel class submarine's nuclear-reactor coolant leak. Zateyev and the actions of his crew managed to avert disaster, despite severe radiation exposure. After the event, Zateyev and his crew were sworn to secrecy by the Soviet government regarding the events that transpired, and were only permitted to reveal the story after its collapse. Zateyev later released his memoirs on the event, which were used as the basis for a number of literary works on the disaster, as well as a 2002 documentary and film. In these memoirs, Zateyev criticised the rushed production of Russia's first nuclear ballistic missile submarine. His and his crew's actions on July 4, 1961, earned the surviving crewmembers a joint nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in March 2006.
Vsevolod Borisovich Bessonov (1932–1970) was an officer in the Soviet Navy and commanding officer of the K-8– the Project 627 Kit-class submarine. He was honored with the Hero of the Soviet Union. He died during the sinking of K-8.
The decommissioning of Russian nuclear-powered vessels is an issue of major concern to the United States and to the Scandinavian countries near Russia. From 1950 to 2003, the Soviet Union and its major successor state, Russia, constructed the largest nuclear-powered navy in the world, more ships than all other navies combined: 248 submarines, four Kirov class battlecruisers, and a missile test ship, as well as nine icebreakers. Many were or are powered by two reactors each, bringing the total to 468 reactors. With the end of the Cold War and with its navy chronically underfunded, Russia has decommissioned many of these vessels, and according to one report dated November 2008, intended to scrap all decommissioned submarines by 2012. However, the safety records of the Soviet and Russian navies and the budgetary constraints on the Russian government are matters of great concern. Ships awaiting decommissioning receive little maintenance, and there are insufficient waste storage facilities, raising worries about possible ecological damage from accidents or improper storage.