A Russian nuclear submarine in which 20 people died during a 2008 sea trial will be leased to India in mid-November, a source in the Russian defense industry said on Tuesday.
The delivery will make India only the sixth to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after France, China, Russia, UK and USA.
The Nerpa was to have been leased in 2008 but the transfer was put on hold following a fatal accident three years ago when a freon gas fire suppressant system was accidentally set off.
The industry source said all the defects “will have been eliminated before November, after which the Nerpa will be transferred to Delhi.”
In late September a jury dropped negligence charges against the Nerpa’s captain, Dmitry Lavrentyev, and engineer Dmitry Grobov, who were charged with professional negligence resulting in death or injury for allegedly setting off the sub’s fire safety system “without authorization and for no reason,”
Seventeen of the dead were civilians, killed when fire-suppressant freon gas was released during sea trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008.
Another 21 people were injured, in Russia’s worst naval accident since the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000.
The Nerpa was undergoing shakedown trials and had 208 people aboard, nearly three times its normal complement.
A former senior medical officer with the Pacific Fleet alleged in May the Nerpa’s firefighting system contained a “lethal” mixture of freon and trichloroethylene – a commonly used industrial solvent which is highly toxic and corrosive – rather than pure freon.
Workers at the Amur Shipyard, where the submarine was built, said in an open letter in the same month that Lavrentyev and Grobov were “scapegoats” and that the disaster was the result of “corruption and disintegration of the military-industrial sector.”
The $650 million lease contract for the Nerpa was signed in 2004.