The respected Russian magazine Kommersant Vast said the fire aboard the submarine Yekaterinburg could have triggered powerful explosions that would have destroyed the submarine and scattered radioactive material around a large area when fire erupted on December 29, 2011.
Russia's Defense Ministry claimed all weapons had been unloaded before the submarine had been moved to a drydock at the Roslyakovo shipyard in the Murmansk district.
It took hundreds of emergency workers more than 20 hours to extinguish the massive blaze that shot orange flames up to 20 metres in the air. The magazine said that an explosion of of torpedos, each carrying 300 kilograms of TNT would likely have destroyed the bow and and could have triggered a blast of nuclear-tipped missiles in the midsection and the vessel`s two nuclear reactors.
``Russia was a step away from the largest catastrophe since Chernobyl,`` Komersant Vlast said, referring to the 1986 explosion at a nuclear power plant in the then-Soviet Ukraine.
The magazine said the weapons are normally removed from submarines before repairs, but the navy wanted to save time.
Drydocked Russian submarine close to nuclear disaster in December