Vacuum cleaner blamed for $400 million fire on nuclear submarine

A fire last month aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine that caused more than $400 million in damage may have been caused by a vacuum cleaner…

“Preliminary findings indicate the fire started in a vacuum cleaner used to clean work sites at end of shift, and stored in an unoccupied space,” the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Congressional and Public Affairs Office said in a news release. “Specific details as to the cause and subsequent damage assessment are still being evaluated as blah, blah, blah…”

The May 24 incident affected the forward compartment of the USS Miami, where the crew’s living quarters, command and control spaces and the torpedo room are…

“Miami’s nuclear propulsion spaces were not affected by the fire,” the release said. “The ship’s nuclear propulsion plant was not operating at the time and the plant had been shut down for over two months. Nuclear propulsion spaces were isolated from the forward compartment fire early and spaces remained habitable, manned and in a safe and stable condition throughout the entire event. There were no torpedoes or other weapons onboard the submarine.”

Cleanup in the forward compartment began last week and the Navy estimated an “initial rough repair cost” of $400 million, plus some 10% for what it called “secondary effects,” including disruption to other planned work in the shipyards and the possible need to contract work to the private sector.

There are two distinct stages of outrage which should be expressed by any American taxpayer.

First – how did a vacuum cleaner fire get to be big enough to cause $400 million. Does our Navy turn off fire detection and fire suppression systems when they park one of their boats?

Second – if the description is accurate, the only gear affected by the fire is sleeping quarters and associated compartments. Last time I was forward in an American nuclear submarine I didn’t see everyone sleeping on Tempur-pedic mattresses. Plus another 10% for getting in the way of the rest of the shipyard?

Sounds like we’re picking up the tab for unemployment in New Hampshire for the rest of the decade.

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