Thursday, May 24, 2012

Overheard in the Office:

The TeeWee down the hall had the talking head on the morning news saying "Fire on a nuclear submarine!" in a tone of voice that made it clear that simply uttering the words gave him a little ghoulish journalistic chubby.
Reporter: "The Navy was quick to inform us that the fire was at the opposite end of the submarine from the nuclear reactor."

Me: "Oh, you mean at the end with the torpedoes? The part where there's actually something flammable?"
(...and yes, I know there are stern tubes, and that the forward tubes are actually more sorta midships, and that there's no real good place on a nuclear-powered undersea vessel to have a raging inferno, but the guy's combination of morbid fascination and utter cluelessness just rubbed me the wrong way.)

32 comments:

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

Sometimes I think you enjoy your work environment a little too much. Are y'all hiring?

Bram said...

The part about the sub being in a shipyard instead of 500 feet deep seemed like a let down too. Sounds like some refit work went sideways.

docjim505 said...

1. The boat was tied up at the dock at the Portsmouth shipyard. It's not unreasonable to suspect a careless dockyard worker;

2. Without being especially well-versed in the history of accidents on our subs, it seems to me that they are as danger tied up to the dock as at sea. I recall that Sargo had a torpedo battery fire while in port at Pearl Harbor, and Guitarro actually sank (!) while tied up to the pier at Mare Island.

I've always thought it a credit to the Navy that an accident aboard one of our subs is newsworthy because they simply don't happen that often.

LC Scotty said...

Couple of nits-the reactor is near mid ships on a 688 with all of the propulsion gear aft of that. Also, 688 don't have stern tubes.

Tam said...

LC Scotty,

"Also, 688 don't have stern tubes."

I reckon that wire-guided torpedoes make them kinda superfluous...

Robert said...

Yeah, sounds like some shipyard worker was welding and didn't have a firewatch there like they were supposed to.

LC Scotty said...

Indeed-the MK48 ADCAP is a fabulous piece of ordinance.

Laughingdog said...

From what they have been saying at work, the fire started between shifts. A lack of a fire watch is less likely than an inattentive fire watch or securing him too soon after the hot work stopped. But it mightnot even be hot work related. I have seen fires start at the yard from wiring that should have been repaired but wasn't identified in the original work package.

@docjim, as someone in charge of a lot of those dockworkers, go fuck yourself. Mistakes rarely happen because our workers are careless. The issue is that we are trying to coordinate 100,000+ mandays of work in a 6 month time frame, and sometimes the planning doesn't work out. We have had NASA offer to help us plan our work better, and then realize that what we do is a lot more complicated than what they go through trying to launch a shuttle.

Laughingdog said...

@docjim

As I read the rest of your comment, you should just not talk anymore. Everything you said there shows that you have no idea what you are talking about. The Guitarro sank at the pier at a shipyard because of testing of ballast tanks while there were still openings cut into the hull. The sub here at Portsmouth was in a drydock; it was not tied up to a dock. In fact, the fire would have been easier to control if it had been in the water, because the river would have served as a heat sink.

@Tam, there are no torpedos or missiles on vessels in the shipyard. Everything gets offloaded beforehand.

Firehand said...

Laughingdog, is that for every stop at the 'yard, or only for serious work that takes a while?

Laughingdog said...

It is every stop at the yard. If it is minor enough not offload, it is minor enough to just do the work at the base.

Dirt Sailor said...

For that matter, Tam, the forward tubes in a 688 are about as far forward as you can get in the ship. I can testify to this having crawled through one as a part of my checkout on weapons aboard the ship.

ASM826 said...

There's really no good place at all to have a raging inferno.

Tam said...

"There's really no good place at all to have a raging inferno."

Congress.

dave said...

Tam wins, but only if it's during the State of the Union address.

Laughingdog said...

Oh, and it turns out there was no hot work going on at all yesterday on the Miami.

I do have to say that, after almost 20 years of doing this stuff, I never would have expected a fire onboard a naval vessel to be able to get that hot without having any fuel involved.

Kristopher said...

It could be worse ... the brits made a class of submarines with wiring insulation that was soluble in salt water.

They had the good sense to sell them to Canadians immediately.

docjim505 said...

Laughingdog,

Calm down before you pop a blood vessel. My remarks were not intended to imply that dockyard workers are stupid, incompetent, knuckledragging morons who cause accidents, but rather to point out that, contrary to what MiniTru seems to think, not every accident aboard a nuclear submarine is a case of, "ZOMG! REACTOR MELTDOWN! HIROSHIMA! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"

Indeed, in my remarks about Sargo, I stated that the fault was traced to a faulty torpedo battery, which is hardly the fault of a dockyward worker. With regard to Guitarro, I merely note that she sank while tied up to the dock without discussing why or who was at fault; this was merely another example of my broader point that subs seem to be in as much danger tied up to the dock as they are at sea. This was intended as compliment to the Navy for operating very complex machines literally for decades without loss of a boat, not a slam on dockyard workers.

Laughingdog said...

You'll understand if I'm a bit defensive when, after my co-workers in emergency response just finished putting it out, I can't seem to see anything about it in the news that isn't filled with comments attacking us as an organization.

So when I see a comment that looks like it's denigrating the guys we have doing the work on our boats and ships, the hackles apparently come up pretty quickly.

Robert said...

" "There's really no good place at all to have a raging inferno."

Congress."

Tom Clancy already did that.

docjim505 said...

Laughingdog - [W]hen I see a comment that looks like it's denigrating the guys we have doing the work on our boats and ships, the hackles apparently come up pretty quickly.

I understand that. My father was an aircraft mechanic and got nettled any time there was an accident (God forbid, a crash) and people started suggesting that it was due to sloppy maintenance. IMO, pride in one's work and in one's fellows is part of what being a "professional" is all about.

Nylarthotep said...

I'm with LaughingDog on this one.

I worked at several of the nuke shipyards at different points and Portsmouth was, IMHO, the absolute best. I was a RadCon tech and later Engineer and I saw the nuclear work at all levels. All Nuke shipyards are extremely careful. I Never saw a fire in my 13 years. (Well other than the squid flapping a garbage back saying "thick black smoke, thick black smoke")

Maybe we should just wait and hear what actually happened rather than listen to the idiots on the TV.

Dirt Sailor said...

Nylarthotep-

You must never have worked at PHNSY, then. I'll never forget the day I saw a pair of yard birds passing a section of ERFW pipe with a DANGER tagged valve through the aft escape trunk. No Ka Oi!

Old NFO said...

They offload the Mk-48s before the yard period starts... And yes, sounds like the PNHSY boys screwed up again...

Anonymous said...

Was a Submarine Radiation Control type and had to clear out everyone in the area because of battery acid leak. You just don't breath that shit well and I was the last one out. That was on a Polaris Boat during overhaul. Hell, I didn't think my life was that exciting!

Will said...

A comment on welding caused fires:

Rare, from my observation, and comments from one of my welding instructors. Usually turns out to be from grinding operations, often associated with welding.

Ancient Woodsman said...

I have friends and a few students who fought that fire. One with whom I trained in confined-space decades ago told me today that fighting fire on a docked submarine was, "like going down the hot chimney in order to fight a house fire.". Regardless of cause, the response was very well done.

Grayson said...

ahem.

"combination of morbid fascination and utter cluelessness..."

Wow. That could be from almost any news organization in the Western hemisphere.

Zendo Deb said...

I was going to add something, but wow, what can you add to this?

The press loves NUCULAR anything. But especially since Fukushima Daiichi. Not that they know anything about it. They just love to say the word.

The only thing better is world-ending solar flares.

Nylarthotep said...

@Dirt Sailor

Nope. Never went there. Those were the trips all the SENIOR people got to take. I never got that senior. Decided to take a job that actually pays.

Justthisguy said...

Normandie sank pierside due to incompent firefighting following a fire caused by careless welders. The ship's designer, Yourkevitch, was there, but the police would not admit him because he had no credentials, being a pennyless refugee. It was a genuine fustercluck.

Justthisguy said...

Umm, that should have been "incompetent". Sorry.