French submarine burns in ‘unbelievably fierce fire’ for 14 hours
PARIS - One of the six Rubis-class nuclear submarines in France, the Pearl, burned "in an incredibly violent fire" in the dry dock for more than 14 hours on June 12 while the Naval Group underwent extensive renovations that February should end in 2021.
“There was absolutely no nuclear fuel on board and no weapon. In fact, the submarine was exposed, ”added French military minister Florence Parly on June 13 during a trip to the French naval base in Toulon on the Mediterranean coast to see the damage.
"This was a fire, it was not a nuclear accident," she added.
The fire broke out at 10:35 a.m. local time on the front of the submarine, located in Basin # 3 in the Missiessy Zone of the port. The workers first noticed smoke on the lower deck.
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Sources quoted by the French daily Le Monde say that the fire appears to have been similar to that of Notre Dame cathedral. Soldering work was carried out a few days earlier, which may have caused something smoldering. The pieces of wood and oil that are inherent in this type of renovation could have fed the fire.
"Fighting a fire on a submarine is not at all obvious, especially with very thick smoke," Parly said, praising the "remarkable job" of both the navy and civilian firefighters, who put out the fire in the early hours of June 13 .
The French Navy says a fleet of six submarines is necessary to have two or three of them permanently at sea, to escort the carrier fleet, to collect information and to deploy personnel. After this fire, only three of the six Rubis-class submarines that went into service between 1983 and 1993 are available today. The first in its class, the Rubis, is also under maintenance while the sapphire was taken out of service in June 2019. Parts of the sapphire could be made available to repair damage to the pearl.
The pearl has been in operation since July 7, 1993 and ongoing renovations should extend its lifespan until 2030.
According to Naval Group officials, it will take at least a month to investigate whether the steel hull is so damaged that the submarine is unusable. The steel can withstand the intense heat of a fire for a certain number of hours. However, the engineers have to check whether it has retained the elasticity required to withstand large pressure fluctuations under water.
The Rubis class will be replaced by six Suffren-class submarines, the first of which launched on July 12, 2019, but is still being tested by the Navy and will be commissioned next year.
The 73.6 meter long Rubis-class submarines with a length of 2,500 tons are the most compact nuclear submarines in the world.
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