A nuclear sub in dry dock in Portsmouth, Maine caught fire injuring 7, including some firefighters. The fire started in the front of the ship where, according to reports,there are some tight spaces including a torpedo bay. Fortunately, the fire is now out and no torpedoes where inadvertently launched. The nuclear reactor that powers the ship was never at risk and the sub, though damaged, is now in stable condition. Clearly, a catastrophe was averted.
But how does a fire start on a sub in dry dock? The ship was being “worked on”, which I presume required the use of power tools that might have sparked the blaze. What if one of the workers was taking a smoke break and left the cigarette unattended, or simply flicked it carelessly to go out on its own? I doubt the ship is equipped with ashtrays and I would guess that no smoking signs are posted throughout. I bet, though, that back in the day, there was a lot of smoking going on on these vessels. During World War II, soldiers were actually issued cigarettes.
Firefighters heroically contained the blaze. Imagine being dispatched to put out a fire on an armed nuclear sub. Which leads me to the question of whether we really need a nuclear sub prowling the seas. Like cigarette smoking, it seems the risks outweigh the benefits.
Why not build a clean and safer energy sub? Solar is probably not the best way to go in a sub, but couldn’t we power the thing with peanut oil, jelly fish, electric eel or just plain ole seaweed? I think we could and should.