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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Second of Three Navy/Submarine Posts

CNN reports that the accident on board the Russian nuclear submarine was cause by an error by one of the crew members. I just have a couple of thoughts about this. First, the accident was entirely not nuclear. The submarine is powered by a nuclear reactor, which boils the water to turn the turbine, but the accident had to do with a fire safety system going off. Of course, non-nuclear accidents can result in nuclear reactors being left at the bottom of the ocean, which is not good. See e.g. Kurst, Scorpion, and Thresher. Nonetheless, it doesn't show one way or another about the safety of nuclear reactors. Although, it is shocking to me that 17 people could be killed during what appears to be an underway test of a fire supression system. So, may say something about Russians and their attitude toward industrial safety.

1 comment:

Matt Dick said...

Historically the Russians have been very good at a lot of things. One of their great strengths is smarting their way out of trouble. The problem is that your margin for error once you're in the field is terrifyingly small.

If you fix a problem during the development of the requirements for a product, it costs you $x. If you wait to fix that problem during design, it costs you two times X. If you wait until manufacturing it's four times x. In testing it's 8x, during field trials it's 16x, and in deployment it's 32x + lives.