by David Axe
A nuclear submarine in the port of Dalian in northern China has suffered an accident and is leaking radiation, according to a former Japanese fighter pilot-turned-blogger. “The area is strictly closed off by the Chinese military, and the situation is said to be very dangerous,” Mamoru Sato wrote in Japanese of the alleged July 29 incident.
As with all news stories about Chinese military developments, Sato’s account should be read with a healthy dose of skepticism. As of July 31, no major media had reported on the alleged accident. The only corroboration came from Twitter user “28481k(Alan Lai),” who wrote, “Bohai is closed after a suspected nuclear leak occurred on new nuclear submarine building in Dalian.”
Bohai is one of the shipyard complexes in the vicinity of Dalian. If true, Sato’s report could spell big trouble for the Chinese navy. The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the former Soviet Varyag, is fitting out in Dalian ahead of her first cruise, possibly scheduled for sometime this year. Just last week, the PLAN officially discussed the carrier for the first time.
China’s submarine fleet, numbering around 50 diesel-electric boats and another 10 or so nuclear vessels, is on average old and out-moded, despite a surge in production in the last decade.
The nuclear designs are reportedly highly unreliable. The PLAN’s only confirmed nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the 33-year-old Type 092, has apparently never sailed on a deterrence cruise. A follow-on Type 094 class is under construction.
Two of the new Type 094s have reportedly already moved to Xiaopingdao submarine base near Dalian, where China apparently stores its naval nuclear ballistic missiles. It’s not clear if the vessel allegedly leaking radiation is a Type 094, or if Xiaopingdao is the precise accident site.