Science: A Scary Accident at Sea

Despite early fears, a nuclear-sub disaster poses no danger

At first the accident appeared to have chilling overtones of Chernobyl. A Soviet Yankee I-class submarine on patrol in the Atlantic had been crippled by an explosion and fire that had killed three crew members, and had surfaced about 550 miles east of Bermuda. Of immediate concern: the sub was powered by twin nuclear reactors and carried up to 16 SS-N-6 ballistic missiles, each tipped with two nuclear warheads.

To the crew of a U.S. P-3C Orion antisubmarine plane circling overhead, substantial damage was clearly visible. The sub was venting smoke from a gaping hole behind its sail, or vertical superstructure,...

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