An incorrect order nearly caused a major accident aboard a Soviet nuclear-powered icebreaker, but safety mechanisms and crew action averted a disaster, a senior official said in an interview published Saturday.
Rostislav Nikolsky told the Merchant Marine Ministry daily Vodni Transport that an order to open a drain valve to a working reactor aboard the icebreaker Rossiya had triggered a four-minute emergency while the vessel was undergoing maintenance last November in the Arctic port of Murmansk.
“If there had been further crew errors, the reactor would have been left with no cooling system and the fuel could have melted,” said Nikolsky, head of the state committee on safety in the nuclear industry.
“The first safety barrier could have been broken and radioactivity would have spread through the entire installation. . . . But the triggering of the accident mechanism and steps taken by the crew stabilized the situation.”