Fire on board Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker kills two crew members
Finnish-built Vaygach was breaking ice on the Gulf of Finland last winter
A fire broke out on the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker Vaygach on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, killing two crew members. A third person was seriously injured.
According to the authorities, the fire broke out in the crew quarters and could be confined to those premises. Investigations into the cause of the fire were launched on Thursday.
”For the time being, we cannot confirm the cause of the fire, but it was probably a result of a short-circuit”, said Heikki Reponen, the head of the unit for Expert Services at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, which takes care of neighbouring area cooperation with Russia.
Vaygach was on its way from the port city of Dudinka along the Yenisei River towards the Arctic Ocean and the port city of Murmansk. On Thursday Vaygach returned to Dudinka.
According to Rosatomflot, a state-owned enterprise managing nuclear-powered icebreakers, there is no risk of radioactive leakage, as the fire did not reach the reactor compartment.
Last winter, Vaygach was sent for the first time to the Gulf of Finland because of the severe winter conditions.
Vaygach and its sister vessel Taimyr were built at the Wärtsilä Shipyard in Helsinki in the 1980s. The nuclear reactors were installed on board the vessels in Leningrad.
In May 2011, a radioactive leakage was spotted on board Taimyr, but according to authorities, it was not significant. The vessel was repaired in Murmansk in the summer.
In the 1980s, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority would not issue a permit to bring Vaygach to Finland for maintenance.
”The decisive reason was fire safety”, Reponen reported.
”The icebreakers’ electronic devices have apparently become old”, Reponen added.
In January, the newest Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker will come to assist vessels in the Gulf of Finland. Her name is 50 Years of Victory.
According to Reponen, nuclear-powered icebreakers do not pose any special threat to Finland, as particularly the new models have fully-functional security systems.
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Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority