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Inquiry: USS Hampton submarine crew fails to read meter, fakes logbook, as fluid that keeps reactor from going critical runs low

[Welcome, Bubbleheads readers!]

Prince Namor is best described as SO not happy about this story. Via AP:

Sailors on the submarine USS Hampton failed to do daily safety checks on the ship's nuclear reactor for a month and falsified records to cover up the omission, a Navy investigation shows. [Shades of the nukes that accidentally flew from Minot AFB to Barksdale last month.]

In the case of the Hampton, it appears from a preliminary investigation that sailors in Submarine Squadron 11 had skipped the required analysis of the chemical and radiological properties of the submarine's reactor for more than a month, even though a daily check is required.

"Some of the Hampton's operations and records fell short of high Navy standards," said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.

"There never was any danger to the crew or the public," he said.

That last line, sez Prince Namor, is what we call a "fib." A "misstatement." "Flat-out fucking lie" is another expression sometimes used when one wishes to be more precisely accurate.

The indoctrination given (and absorbed by serious students) at sub school is such that even all these years later the Prince refuses to tell me specific details about the chemistry under discussion here, so we will describe this in terms of analogy:

There is a substance which is added to the water that circulates inside a nuclear reactor. It is a very important substance which has an actual effect on the ability of the water to keep the reactor from going critical.

This substance is used up over time, and a relatively short time at that, so it is very important to keep an eye on it so that more can be added to keep everything running, um, smoothly. As in not setting off alarms and shit, followed shortly thereafter by everybody becoming radioactive and the ship sinking. This does not look good on anybody's performance report so it is considered good form to be avoided.

And how complicated is it to perform this task? Are wrenches involved, and muscles and sweat and the like? Well, no. What is involved is reading a goddamn meter, which is in a convenient place, easily accessible, and requires no effort whatever to get to. You read the meter, write down what it says on your little logbook, and voila, that's pretty much it.

Unless it says your reactor is running a little low on this Essence of Important Shit, in which case you put some more in. It's about as complicated as, and in fact more than slightly analogous to, keeping track of the oil in your car.

This is in the course, mind you, of a 12 hour daily shift, most of which you spend, in the normal course of activities, bored. Having something to do is good.

This is disturbing on more than just the obvious level. Of all the things you could do if you decided to be a complete fuckup, this is the one bit of maintenance that is the stupidest one to choose. Cheat authority by failing to clean behind the head as carefully as you might if the CPO was coming by for inspection, or you were about to pull back into homeport. Or for chrissakes fail to do the daily check on the diesel backup engines, they hardly ever get used to begin with and there isn't much that can go wrong with them anyway. Worst that can happen is you get chewed out and lose some promotion points.

And of all the people, even on an attack boat, to decide to become a complete fuckup, the guys who work in the reactor room are the absolute last you would expect. The training they go through after basic and after sub school is something even the Prince stands in some awe of, and that's a short list. The Nukes are the high priests of the sub community.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that this required at least three people to be involved in it: the enlisted man who was supposed to read the meter, the other enlisted man on that shift, and the officer in charge. If any one of the three had been not-involved he would have told somebody else what was going on. This did not happen--they say for a month; Prince Namor says that that seems unlikely since, on a three-month cruise, why would you perform just fine for 2/3 of it and then decide to fuck off?

And that "fib" etc. at the end? This Mysterious Reactor Fluid that they didn't read the meter of is really, really important. And 30 days is just about as long as it can go without more absolutely, positively having to be added. These boats are fabulous pieces of engineering but them damn laws of physics can be most unforgiving.

The fact that they tried to keep this quiet does not bode well. The earliest item I can find about it before today was a Navy press release, carried only by the NBC station in San Diego, with some mumbling about "he USS Hampton, currently at the Point Loma base, fell short of standards during a recent review.". Um, yeah. No shit.

Now there's one other story between that Oct. 12 one and the ones that broke today: WTKR TV Hampton Roads VA, the sub's old home port. They didn't have all the details so they ran a bit of speculation:

There are also some who theorizing that a music video that recently posted on YouTube entitled, "What is submarine life exactly?" may be part of the controversy. It was made by a Hampton crew member on the recent deployment and it's fun pictures of the crew joking around together. The worst thing we saw on the video was someone giving the middle finger and slapping someone on the butt. But several blog sites on the internet are wondering whether this music video has something to do with the investigation.

Back in Prince Namor's day you were forbidden to bring any sort of electronics on board. No Walkman (Prince Namor, being old, did his service in pre-MP3 player days) no GameBoy or analogous devices--hell, it was even forbidden to have a glow-in-the-dark wristwatch for reasons I have yet to have adequately explained. It was just Forbidden, dammit.

But now it seems that submariners are allowed to have computers on board, and video gear? The Prince finds this somewhat disquieting too. But not as much as failing to read that particular meter and then faking your logbook to cover it up. That would have left a very, very expensive hole in the water.

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Submitted by lambert on

Two nuclear incidents? This looks like demoralization, to me.

Or--putting on my tinfoil hat for a moment--maybe it's time to privatize our nuclear deterrent, to have the benefit [cough] of corporate efficiency and quality control. I'm sure that the Christianists at the Air Force academy, whose fingers are on the buttons, would be pleased with that...

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

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Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Time for a little Peak Foil theorizing:

Word got through the grapevine that a strike on Iran was in the works, and so they tried to scuttle the Boomer surreptitiously rather than be forced to murder hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

we're reaping the whirlwind good ol' W sowed for us in 2003.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

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Submitted by bringiton on

Regarding the Minot AFB nukes-on-the-loose incident, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne had this to say:

“We are making all appropriate changes to ensure this has a minimal chance of ever happening again,"

“Minimal” being quantitatively different from “Never” leads a person to wonder why, when it comes to misplacing nuclear weapons, wouldn’t Zero Defects be the goal? And if that really truly isn’t practicable, how many 9’s reliability are realistic? For not losing nuclear weapons.

This truly is an administration determined to establish diminished expectations as the norm. What was that quote from Ming the Mericiless describing Earth’s inhabitants after he’s finished raining down destruction? Ah yes –
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
“Let’s just say, they’ll be satisfied with less.”

Submitted by lambert on

The headline was long enough anyhow. At least I didn't say "explode", eh?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You have no clue about how a submarine engineroom functions. Not even close. However, if you want to advertise your ignorance to the world by rampant speculation, that's one of your first amendment rights that the armed forces protect on a daily basis.

Submitted by lambert on

Prince Namor, the poster's S.O., was a submariner. Unlike you, obviously.

Smarter trolls, please.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You can't have a glow-in-the-dark watch until it's verified that it doesn't glow in the dark due to radium or tritium. "Verification" is a destructive process, so there wouldn't be much point in buying a soon-to-formerly-be-glow-in-the-dark watch.

The version I've heard has them forging the results from an infrequent analysis (I.E. they may have had to do it a half dozen times over the course of a month) that has no relevance to reactor safety, normal reactor plant chemistry controls, or any notable impact on radiological conditions in the plant. It takes about an 45 minutes to complete. At the concentrations being tested, the analysis is functionally a random number generator... your result has more to do with the standard curve than the sample being analyzed.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

First of all, your source Prince must not be a “Navy Nuke” if he went to sub school as the nukes do not go to sub school, and therefore would know nothing about the chemistry analysis. The news stories do not say what analysis the sailors missed and covered up, but most likely it is some obscure requirement that did not get accomplished because it was not routine and would have no effect on reactor safety. It is certainly not right for them to cover up their mistake, but to suggest their mistake would cause a nuclear incident is just ridiculous Just for your information, the simple meter that your source quotes for doing a sample is a procedure that takes over an hour and the results are checked and signed for by an officer and numerous enlisted members every day. The fact that only six are being punished shows that it was probably one requirement missed and the Laboratory division tried to cover it up so they are all being punished. The sailors made a mistake and they have been punished for it. Get your head out of the sand and quit attacking those who are protecting you.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Fantasy speculation by coners is what is fueling this nonsense! I know a LOT of people that served on submarines who were completely clueless, especially when it came to the reactor operation! It's not their fault, it is out of necessity to the security of the reactor plant and ultimately the boat itself!

As for "Sabotage," a Fast Attack Submarine (SSN) does not a "Boomer" make (SSBN).

Continue in your blissful ignorance, though! It is quite amusing...

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

in his grave and, from everything I've heard about him, well on the way to making a comeback to restore some standards to the nuclear Navy he created.

You two realize, "Nuke Submariner" and "MM1(SS) - ELT", that you are defending the right of submariners to fuck up.

I don't care if these guys' offense was failure to perform checks and properly log the number of rolls of toilet paper in the heads, the worst consequence of which could be a increased incidence of piles. The standard the Admiral established was that you do not fuck up nor cover for those who do.

Letting little things slip leads to letting bigger things slip. Letting standards slide, shooting for the "oh well, it's not perfect but it's good enough," starts a downhill slide that even on a pig boat will inevitably lead to loss of government property (that would be your boat, and, of greater importance, the asses of the men unlucky enough to be assigned as your crewmates, and of least importance of all, your asses as well.) At best it will lead to failure to carry out the assigned mission.

I sincerely hope you are the fakes and phonies which we usually get as trolls, because that's sure what you sound like. If I get a criticism from Bubblehead (whose coverage of this is excellent) or somebody else who actually knows the subject, I will take it seriously and correct as needed. You two? Feh.

On the other hand I believe I made clear that I am not a submariner and do not work with nuclear reactors. As specified I was working with second hand information from somebody whose sub service was circa 30 years ago. Terminology and procedures have no doubt changed somewhat--but when the Prince went through it everybody went through sub school, then on to further training for their specific job. The rule was that everybody knew how to do everything on the boat, because the occasion might arise that they would have to do it.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

1.) Nukes don't go to sub-school
2.) read up on basic reactor theory, wikipedia is nice.
3.)Critical = running normally.
4.) Feel free to criticize, it is your right, but at least do it in an educated manor.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Lets set the record straight! Nobody is defending these sailors for their lack of integrity. The reason why our military can have multiple operating reactors in some of the most populated and pristine ports is because of the impeccable record, our integrity, and our frequent inspections. Besides not operating at all, a nuclear reactor on a submarine is most stable and safe when it is "critical". The chemistry portion of the reactor plant is solely to help maintain the proper ph to minimize corrosion and also to monitor for fission products that might be indicative of a possible problem with the reactor itself. Since you morons don't understand nuclear power, how a reactor works, or what would actually constitute a problem you assume we were or are on the verge of armageddon. Do us all a favor, do at least a little bit of research before you try to pawn off your totally incorrect theories and hypothesis. I served over 21 years on nuclear subs so yes, I may appear to be a bit biased but I also know that I have probably forgotten more about nuclear power that you yourself could possibly ever learn in the rest of your lifetime. Yes, its insulting to me what those sailors on the Hampton and they have done a dis-service to those that have served before them. I take exception to your ignorant generalizations and find it irresponsible on your part for your inaccurate and very uneducated views on submarine nuclear power processes and procedures. ETCS(SS)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Thank you ETCS. I hope anyone following this story reads your comments. It makes my blood boil when I read comments made by individuals who have no idea what they are talking about. As a former leading engineering laboratory technician on a fast attack submarine (not to mention a chief), I am embarrassed that this happened. However, I would never make rediculous accusations of others mistakes if I did not understand the subject matter of the problem. To those who don't understand nuclear power and the chemistry related with it--Shut UP!

Submitted by lambert on

Generally really educated people, those who wish to teach others, don't call prospective students "morons." Trolls, by contrast, among their other disgusting habits, call those who disagree with them "morons" all the time. Goes to credibility, ya know?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

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Submitted by Sarah on

maybe MMC operates on the "like recognizes like" rule?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

All of this specualtion about the reactor plant and Engineroom really makes some people laugh. Especially those who have been there. Stop speculating, stop guessing and for god's sake stop denigrating the many who look bad because of 1 or two

Submitted by lambert on

Where's the denigration? (Except for trollish behavior). Sweet Jeebus, I want our nuclear submarines to work properly, and I want everything done by the book. Where's the denigration in that?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

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Submitted by Sarah on

these guys want you to believe they're on The Team (or in The Unit, or of The Force). It's important to them to seem Important. Authoritative. In the Know. Double-nought agents. Or something. I used to be like that. Then I grew out of it. (Last week I couldn't spell "authorized personnel; now, I are one" will do it every time.)

So now when I run across something that just looks bizarre as all get out, I don't try to dress it up in 007-speak. We've all seen enough episodes of Sea Hunt and JAG and NCIS already.

That's why I was so sure the stuff on the Buff wasn't there as part of a Plot To Nuke Iran In Secret. Seriously.
But the web was crawling with guesstimates and disinformation and The Force and The Unit and The Team "authoritative voices" saying, yes, yes it must be. (We had some here as I recall.)

The thing is, Occam's razor's pretty sharp -- and carelessness ("familiarity breeds contempt") is a lot more common than malignity, in the military, particularly when there are multiple people involved.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

This reminds me of watching TV specials on cold war sub ops where they quote an E-4 who as basically an admin on a sub 30 years ago as an authoritative voice because they "heard something somewhere."

As someone who had to do these chemistry analyses for qualification, I can confirm what my nuke brethren above have said. Its about controlling corrosion, not controlling the reactor, and its quite a bit more complicated than "reading a meter". The comments by xan, relayed via the "Prince" are substantially inaccurate. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing....the comments have portions that are correct and glaring errors, mixed in a way that sounds reasonable to those without knowledge. While everyone on the boat receives training about how things work, no one in the front end of the boat (e.g. non-nuclear trained) has much of a clue about how the reactor works, just as most nukes couldn't tell you the details of sonar propogation. It would be like saying you speak Spanish because you can order in a Mexican restaurant. Anyone onboard who isn't nuclear trained and a lab tech (ELT) or a supervisor doing quals (like the senior enlisted members who have posted above) has no first hand experience with performing this analysis. Certainly, no non-Nuke has a clue what is being measured and how it is performed.

I think the performance on Hampton embarasses any current or ex-Nuke. Its beneath the standards we worked to uphold during our careers. The gripe is about remarks like those from xan which may be well intentioned, but are highly inaccurate and paint the a totally distorted picture. The statement that there was no danger to the crew is accurate. Comparing this to the screwups in Minot is inaccurate. I won't even start with people who don't understand the difference between a nuke weapon and a power plant, but they are the reason that these types of stories always have the safety disclaimer: people don't know enough to realize that something like this was not a short term nuclear risk.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

To Xan and others on that side of the fence I do apologize for the "non-professional" remarks. I guess my angst gets the best of me at times because this incident in no different than the multitude of other things that happen in this world today where a story breaks and the people making the most noise about it are the ones that don't truly know the story, the facts, or the signifcance of it. Happens all the time. Prior to retirement the missions my subs went on were very important and never once did I ask "why are we doing this?"...because we (the crew) were "in the know". Now, after retirement I'm no longer "in the know" and I caution myself to question the actions of our leaders as they assign our brave servicemembers to "apparently" insignificant or senseless missions. Truth is...unless I'm there I try to reserve judgement until I talk to someone who has been there. The Hampton situation is one where those not "in the know" should listen to those that are or have been and leave it at that and maybe walk away from it thinking "wow yeah, those sailors really screwed up but its not what I originally thought..." Again, sorry for the mud-slinging. ETCS

Submitted by lambert on

(Thanks, proud nuke and former nuke LT, for revising and extending your remarks.)

But from the 30,000 foot level, Minot and the USS Hampton look the same to me: Nuclear materials* plus sloppy handling equals increased potential for disaster. (And we all know this; that's why the procedures are there in the first place.) And in the case of the Hampton, the dog seems to have eaten the paperwork. And these two incidents are the ones that got in the papers; how many are there?

One incident is a blip; two incidents are cause for concern; three incidents are a pattern. Fortunately, we only have two! So, what I tend to wonder in such cases is this: Is there anything systemic going on that could possibly be causing such incidents? Budget cuts? Privatization? Politicization? (In other words, everything that has gone on everywhere else in this administration?)

This line of questioning has nothing to do with bravery or respect** or anything like that. And, unfortunately, "trust the experts" isn't a viable strategy in today's world, where our trust has been violated in so many ways. (Nobody gets any deference here--except, of course, for The Fellows Of The Mighty Corrente Building--if that's an issue, but avoiding deference is a matter of principle with us.)

NOTE * I do know that a bomb is not the same as a reactor. And if I did know all the technical details about how a reactor operates, that would be really bad, right?

NOTE ** One thing that military people who comment here sometimes don't understand is that there's a very strong strain in the blogosphere--although I can't speak for everyone, even here--that is driven absolutely crazy because they feel that our (volunteer, highly trained) military was and is misused in the current mission in Ira[q|n?]. (There's the Smedley Butler "war is a racket" strain of thinking, but that's not what I'm getting at.) It's as if Chosin Reservoir or, oh, the Battle of Midway were fought not as part of the Korean War or World War II, but as part of the Opium War in China. The whole Clusterfuck is like the charge of the light brigade or something. Who wouldn't want to stop that? We'd be derelict in our duties as citizens if we didn't.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Xan...True, sometimes "blips" can be indicative of more deeply rooted and systemic problems. Personally, I can't understand how the whole nuke flyover the Air Force did could have possibly happened. Complancency? Rush? Who knows? Had the NPEB (nuclear propulsion examining board) not reported the integrity violation, the "missed" samples would not have even made a letter written home to mom. I guess there are two ways to look at it depending on your viewpoint. One way is to say that "they" are just "throwing us a bone" to appease us so we don't dig and find out more horrific things. The other way (which is my belief) is that since there is never anything to report due to the impeccable record, when ANYTHING is reported its big news...such as this. One thing for sure though is I'm sure the nuclear community is doing some sole searching right now regarding integrity. I'm sure that what used to be 6 hours of log taking will now be 6 hours of log taking followed by 6 hours of training...LOL. ETCS

... but the chemical analysis Prince Namor remembered is for when the reactor has been shut down for months with major maintenance going on, and the reports say the samples of interest were missed when the submarine was at sea, with the reactor therefore critical. Please don't consider this as "criticism", but rather as a helpful suggestion from a lowly sub-blogger interested in getting realistic information out about submarines whenever they show up in the press. Since xan sent people over to my place, that's all I can ask -- those interested in learning as much as they can (within the bounds of classification of course) can come visit if they want.

Submitted by lambert on

... I'm lambert (and vice versa).

We don't mind "criticism." How else is the truth to be arrived at?

As far as the big picture, here, though, "we stand by our story," this being my takeaway, which is the quote from the original story:

Sailors on the submarine USS Hampton failed to do daily safety checks on the ship’s nuclear reactor for a month and falsified records to cover up the omission, a Navy investigation shows.

That feels to me like a systemic problem.

And as long as I'm not Xan, I should also say that "critical" in the headline is mine. I changed it to make the post more of a hit magnet, 'cause it's all about the hits! Sorry...

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Lambert...boy do I feel stupid. Sorry for refering to you as the guy you quote. What a putz I am. The only thing I can say about the news release you included is that the people to write that and print those types of things don't know the slightest thing about what they are writing. "Daily safety check..." makes it seems as if the ship and anything within 1000 miles was in peril due to their ommission. Again, had the Hampton rogered up to missing the check, taken their inspection lumps, and moved on NONE of this would have even made it past the squadron level, let alone national news. It would have been a comment on the inspection report that "such and such sample was missed for such and such many days and was not identified by the crew...." The Div-O and division would have had to do some explaining and upgrading and maybe a "heads-up" message sent to each submarine identifying the lack of proper documentation and sampling that each crew would spend 15 minutes on discussing. At worse, each chemistry division would probably have some internal audit done on their own records to identify if it in fact it was a fleet systemic issue or isolated. Sorry for mis-naming you. See, nuclear power is bad..all those "zoomies" affects my reading ability. However, I do manage to correctly add the two numbers together to certify my post. ETCS

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Submitted by Sarah on

I can speak for the Fellows this much: no one at Corrente is doing "gotcha" work on this story or trying to use the reports regarding the Navy investigation to put down USN personnel.

The story -- just like the Minot/Barksdale cruise missile "miscue" story -- rings alarm bells with the Fellows when it gives us (or anybody else) the impression that added to the strains and rigors of military life, our uniformed personnel are now being pressed to do more, longer deployments and use old or inadequate or even unsafe equipment while on duty.

Our beef, in other words, isn't with the submariners, the sailors, marines; or with the pilots, missile maintenance crews, or SP/LE troops watching the WSA. It's with the people higher up the line who have created really insupportable situations for the personnel at the sharp end of every stick in Uncle Sam's reach.

Step back. Look hard.

If the checks aren't done, why aren't they done?
Is it a matter of lacking the time? Lacking the know how?
Lacking the training? Lacking the understanding of the need for the checks to be performed? What kind of commander puts personnel on the decksole in an environment like that? Shouldn't somebody be held accountable?

A submarine is very little different from a coal mine -- (It moves. It's under water instead of under ground. Otherwise it's very similar:) hardworking people of mostly modest means risking their lives to accomplish difficult, highly-dangerous work in a hostile environment where paying attention to the details, no matter how mundane they may seem at a given instant, might be the difference between not just one crewmember's life and death, or finishing the mission or not, but losing all hands *and* the works!

We've seen a number more coal miners killed through mismanagement/ carelessness in the last six years than we have submariners, and while the miners' deaths are no less tragic, we don't want to see any more deaths -- miners, submariners, innocent bystanders on foreign-flag vessels sundered by surfacing subs.

I'm not sure what the numbers are, but the old USSR sank/lost around a dozen sub reactors (not counting whole subs) and the US has had some incidents as well. Personally I'm all for not further poisoning the seas/polar ice with radioactive materials, and I'd just as soon NOT have a sea-born Chernobyl incident arising from poor maintenance aboard a nuclear sub.

I don't care whether it's a fast-attack boat or a combat-strike aircraft, if nuclear weapons or nuclear power plants are part of the equation I want the personnel to be top notch, well rested, properly supported, superbly trained, and competently commanded -- and I damn sure want them doing the job right.
If you feel that that puts me in a position of denigrating those personnel, well -- maybe you need to reconsider your position.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by lambert on

The captcha works not only against spammers but against trolls, because trolls can't do basic arithmetic (along with whoever, if anyone, is handling fiscal policy for the Republican Party). Maybe it takes two hands to do arithmetic....

I'm going to bow out of this discussion, now. I just wanted to make sure the discussion didn't get personalized or stuck at the level of individuals. (Readers, believe me: We know how to do personal. There won't be any doubt when we do.) I think Sarah's coal mine metaphor is brilliant. And we can argue detail all the day long, and we're sure to get that wrong. But on the big picture? I think we're right. Onward!

NOTE For geeks (in a good way!) there's a lot of commentary on the logging issue here. I can't translate most of the acronyms, but the message I get is "How could this happen?" Which is the same question we're asking, in our own way. And Bubblehead has converted to the Democratic Party at the state level, so he's educable [lambert dodges... No, it's not a zucchinni. It's a large, Navy-style wrench. How odd.]

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I am Proud to call myself a Submariner.I have probably spent more time underway than most of you.

I am embarrassed with all that I've read about our new navy. Major problems at Annapolis with cadets in trouble, even their instructors. Submarine officers not meeting the Navy's high standards. We as submariners have done some silly things......Blue Nose, ShellBack,and international dateline, initations. we even have half-way dinners complete with wine or beer. but we never compromised the safety of the boat. If we forgot to do something we owned up to it right away.

I AM ASHAMED AT THE HAMPTOM CREW. I CAN"T BELIVE THEY DIDN"T SEE THIS COMMING. one can only hope the 08 checks the cone, and weapon's logs too.

PS I was shocked this last summer when I visited the Groton Submarine Base It Looked Like Crap.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Look, these guys deserved to be fired -- a disgrace to the Navy. But the facts don't support a conclusion that there was any danger to the ship or the public. The issue is that these sailors lied and can't be trusted, not that there was any imminent danger. The idea that the reactor was going to go critical / supercritical is preposterous. I was an engineer officer (and probably the only liberal on my crew) so I see both sides of this -- and the posters here from the Navy aren't trolls -- they're just calling it right.

Submitted by lambert on

Read the whole thread:

1. When people call us "morons," I tend to think they're trolls. That got clarified by subsequent Bubblehead commenters, thanks very much.

2. As far as the technical issues, heck, I'm sorry about the word "critical." But we didn't just make shit up, and we did rely on someone with submariner experience (albeit distant). How about I said extremely non-trivial? Or mission-critical?* After all, regardless of the term of art, the Navy took this very seriously, right? Again, this has been discussed and clarified by Bubblehead commenters.

3. The issue, as I think we all agree, without any hysteria at all, is that there's some sort of systemic problem here. Here's the state of play right now:

Portland's demotion brings to 10 the number of people relieved of duty on the submarine in the wake of the misconduct probe.

Six personnel have been punished for forging inspection records for the cooling system, the Navy officials said Monday. Those six -- one officer and five enlisted personnel -- received a "nonjudicial punishment" after other Navy personnel discovered their actions, the officials said.

The Hampton remains in port in San Diego, California. In all, the $900 million vessel's crew includes 13 officers and 116 enlisted personnel.

So, let me get this straight: 10 of 129 (7%) of the personnel in an extremely complex, extremely expensive, nuclear-powered, nuclear armed strategic weapons system get involved in records falsification scheme, right?

What emotional stance would you recommend besides hysteria? (Leaving aside the etymologically and otherwise feminizing subtext of "hysterical")

Relaxed acceptance? (We liberals sing kumbayah a lot less than is commonly thought).

Analytical detachment? (My preference, albeit leavened with snark)

Rage at what's happening to the Navy?

Denial?

Help me out, here....

NOTE * Or since the cooling system is involed, should I say "overheat"? Somehow I don't find the picture of a nuclear reactor overheating very reassuring...

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

per CNN.

Prince Namor relieved as well.

For the record, I would never have posted this item had the Prince not brought the matter to my attention and ranted about it for long enough to make me understand why this was a Big Deal.

My thanks to all who have commented, for good or ill, and particular thanks to Bubblehead for stopping in. All those who have faced the grease gun deserve respect, and deserve good commanders most of all.

I know you guys (sub service is still all male and that's what we're talking about here, but this applies to all services and all genders serving) rate the opinions of civilians just slightly lower than above-average pond scum, but that's okay. We still appreciate the job you do. At the same time we sign yer paychecks and every job deserves to have the good rewarded and the bad smacked when they have it coming. So we kinda like to feel like we owe ya--the good guys-- to keep your backs, see?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Reading the hysterics from people who nothing about nuclear power and nuclear reactors. I also find it interesting that you 100% believe that we were seconds from Chernobyl based on nothing but your politics...but dismiss all the people with first hand knowledge as trolls.

Submitted by lambert on

You will find that each and every one of your concerns has been specifically addressed--and by commmenters from Bubbleheads, I might add.

Some people read only to have their preconceptions reinforced. It's sad.

Regarding "hysteria": As I asked--and got no answer--above, what emotional stance would you suggest when 7% of a nuclear submarines personnnel join in a records-falsification scheme to conceal the fact that they haven't been maintaining the reactor's cooling system?

Should I sing kumbaya? You certainly seem to be singing your own version of it!

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

..is that people have a tendency to use them as a reason for anything that happens.

I've read in several posts people wondering if it was a systematic error, administrative, or if people were just too tired to do it. I can honestly say that it was 99.9% likely that it was anything other then laziness. If anything, we as Nukes have a lot of extra time on our hands really for the type of job that we do. While something exciting is going on in the cone, and everyone is scrambling around, we are sitting back in the engineroom doing the same job that we do every day, so it can't be because we are tired. If it was systematic or administrative, we would have definitely heard about it on other boats before now.

As for the "Prince," not to doubt his integrity or anything, but I highly doubt that he was ever in the program, even from the early days. I'm currently serving on the USS Daniel Webster, SSBN 626, originally built in 1964, and I have no clue what it is that the "Prince" is talking about, especially since I am on one of the earliest built nuclear subs.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Apparently he was a coner attempting to remember something about the reactor plant chemistry. That's taken from one of the links on the blog you pointed me too. That is why there are such glaring errors, at least to us Nukes, but it is good of him to attempt to add to the article, though I would suggest that he from now on prevent himself from speaking of which he does not know.

While I am one that values discussion, I'm going to suggest that this article be taken down, for the simple fact that to those of us who know the subject in detail, it makes the writer seem ignorant, aside from the fact that it spreads an entirely wrong message about the Nuclear Navy as a whole. Yes, some sailors did something stupid. Trust me, we all have at some point in our careers. But we are not perfect, and all we can do is learn from those mistakes. We as nukes are EXTREMELY proud of the fact that the Nuclear Navy has been running for almost 60 years without a single Nuclear accident, and that no vessel has been lost because of simply an issue with the plant, unlike some other countries. But we take mistakes seriously, such as this, and I have no doubt that briefs will be held Navy wide on the subject, especially to the ELTs.

The most damage that could come of what those sailors did is that the life of the plant will be shortened, if even. We, as Nukes, know that if any type of nuclear accident actually occurs on our watch, its the end of the Nuclear Navy, which won't just put us out of a job, it will be detrimental to Nuclear Power as a whole, when it is just coming back into focus as a good, cheap, and above all, safe, form of energy.

Submitted by lambert on

Thank you for responding, current. Your comment is very important to us. Please do not hesitate to comment again.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

Two hydrogen atoms are sitting in a bar.
One says to the other, "I've lost my electron".
"That's terrible.", says the other, "Are you sure?".
The first one sez: "Yeah, I'm positive."
Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Lambert,

Your comments are well taken, but you need to consider that from 30,000 feet, everything looks a lot alike and if that's the only level where people pay attention, they don't see that the root cause and potential consequences are totally different and require different solutions. I haven't read as much about the Minot incident, but it would appear to be a case of carelessness where Hampton is one of willful disregard of a rule. Having said that, Hampton wasn't skipping all of their sample, just one analysis of about 10 on the same sample... an analysis which wasn't implemented until the last decade, I'm not positive exactly when. (Since I got out. This is from chatter on a sub board or two.) The nuke program survived without this analysis for 40 years, so this isn't the safety issue people may fear.

I managed the division on my boat that did such chemistry checks for a year. No one whoworks in this group gets to the boat without knowing how to do these and what they mean. My guys, and nukes in general, were/are exceptionally hard workers and wouldn't skip this because they were "slackers". (I say tbis after 12 years in high tech industry as a grounds for comparison.) By the same token, its not the Bush adminmistration's fault that procedures which have been in place for 40 years (Hampton and Minot) were not followed. Its not an admiral or general's fault either. These are not policy issues, they are execution issues and each command needs to be evaluated to determine if the command environment (that's usually a colonel or navy commander and lower) was the problem. It would appear that this contributed heavily on Hampton. I can't speak to training in the USAF or their procedures. I can't imagine a nuke disregarding something that was truly reactor safety...and certainly not 5 bad eggs in one division. There's something larger at play here, but its at the command level and its an organizational behavior issue.

On the surface, the issue at Minot looks more like attention to detail, which I find a bit scarier, given potential consequences of loss of control. (Flying nuke weapons over America is not a concern in my eyes...they did it all through the cold war without issue.)

Submitted by lambert on

We agree it's systemic, as you write:

but its at the command level and its an organizational behavior issue.

(Although OB involves everybody--7% of the ship's crew, including an officer, remember.

However, you write:

On the surface, the issue at Minot looks more like attention to detail, which I find a bit scarier, given potential consequences of loss of control.

I find records falsification a lot scarier than accident, actually.

Nor do I see a reason to minimize the failure to take the test; as the Navy, to its credit, did not:

The nuke program survived without this analysis for 40 years, so this isn’t the safety issue people may fear.

Well, either the Navy put the test in for a very good reason, or they didn't. Which is it? (And surely it's possible that as technology evolves, new tests get put in place?

Oh, and as far as "root cause"--if the problem is systemic, then the system needs to be addressed. For me, the "system" is the military as a whole, not one branch of a service, or one of the services. For example, OpTempo is increasing for everyone, not just the Army. OTOH, so far as I know, only the Army's functions have been outsourced to mercenaries. Will that change? And so on and forth.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

training and policy, and yes, we did fly nuclear weapons across the States all during the cold war. What happened at Minot is different in scale but not consequence from what happened at Fairchild in 1994:

At 07:30 local time (Pacific Time Zone) on June 24, 1994, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, a USAF B-52H bomber crew stationed at Fairchild prepared to practice an aircraft demonstration flight for an upcoming air show. The crew consisted of pilots Arthur "Bud" Holland (46 years old), Mark McGeehan (38), Robert Wolff (46), and weapon systems officer/radar navigator Ken Huston (41). Holland was the designated command pilot for the flight, with McGeehan as the copilot and Wolff designated as a safety observer. Holland, McGeehan, and Huston were Lieutenant Colonels and Wolff was a Colonel. Holland was the chief of the 92nd Bomb Wing's Standardization and Evaluation branch, McGeehan was the commander of the 325th Bomb Squadron, Wolff was the vice commander of the 92nd Bomb Wing, and Huston was the 325th Bomb Squadron's operations officer.

That was a command-level local failure: Holland had been repeatedly reported for unsafe flying, but kept getting away with it.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

This issue of falsifying records is a self correcting issue. I can tell you this; I would not want to be an ELT (or any rate) on a boat right now. I can guarantee that ever record on every boat is being reviewed as we speak. I can see it now, the LELT, CRA, Engineer, XO and CO are combing through their boats respective records. And after they get through with the RL Div's records they will move on to the other divisions, nuke and non-nuke alike. When the Operational Reactor Safe Guard exam comes around the inspectors will have calibrated their fine tooth combs and will be scrutinizing every record for authenticity. So sleep well, the spirit of Rickover is alive and flows through the veins (of most) US Navy nukes and the culture created by Rickover will not rest until this issue is resolved.

PS: Let’s remember that this issue was discovered during a routine inspection by Naval Reactors.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

critical information about things like nuke subs, you're not as smart as you think you are. just sayin.

...i assume you know how wiki "works." if you don't, look it up! then you'll understand why i trust sarah, and not wiki, on this issue.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

This issue is obviously an integrity issue, a type of accident could have occurred possibly, but the reason we are allowed to operate is because of our integrity and "questioning attitude", thats why these guys are no longer with us.

The guy said basic reactor theory, and wikipedia is nice because of the way it works, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized... and if you dont like that just google Reactor Theory and you can find some published books about it for free that are on the internet and know more than you ever wanted to know, what he was saying is its not hard to find the answers yourself instead of trusting something someone said that they heard from someone else the other week about a guy they met once.

And another for the record the routine Record reviews, are just that, some records get reviewed monthly some less often but hardly is it ever just a glance, its intense thats why this was found, the people who do the job know the job and know the loopholes, we should have the integrity not to use the loopholes.

"I know you guys (sub service is still all male and that’s what we’re talking about here, but this applies to all services and all genders serving) rate the opinions of civilians just slightly lower than above-average pond scum" - Xan

LOL while funny, and i cant speak for everyone, but honestly i think thats wrong, the average person in the world could join the navy ace the ASVAB and become a nuke and do awesome. All it takes is some effort. Someone else also said something about they want us to be well rested, supported, trained, and supervised ... so i beseech you, join us ... we are undermanned and bedridden for the most part, when senior people who know stuff get out, at an alarming rate, new young and sometimes incompetent people move up in rate, you dont make rate by being smart or doing an awesome job, you do it by looking awesome and having a good attitude and getting seen at least looking like you are doing stuff by the people in charge. For the most part.

All in all its a big deal because our trust is in question and when we are out to sea all we have is us, and you have to trust us to do everything "by the book" on our own. If you want to think of this incident in another way think of a fish tank, you monitor things on it, (pH, salt levels, temperature, so on and so forth) lets say you dont look at your salt levels for a month, but you can see that because of the temperature of the water some is evaporating away, the salt stays in the water so you can assume that its getting more concentrated. We KNOW how the plant operates and responds to different situations because thats our whole job, these guys cant prove that the plant was fine on paper and lied about what they did, so theyre fired.

How should you react to this news ? honestly if it was back in the day and i was an ignorant civilian piece of scum (i think im gonna have to use that more often) i might have freaked a little, and had no clue why but thought i knew that the reactor would explode unless they shut it down and not bothered to look anything up on my own just like you, probably made a story up too ... not much of a blogger though.

Submitted by lambert on

Seems to be the point a lot of commenters are making, boiling it all down.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

that's pretty telling. how about you don't bother with "service" anymore, and just move to a country where the military gets to kill "scum" openly and without prosecution, like iraq. or, here, i guess, if bringiton has his way (just funnin with you, bro).

seriously- civvies are your bosses, in case you forgot. CIC, anyone? or the DoD, which is traditionally headed by a civvie? (don't remind me about rummy)

i suppose you probably enjoy raping little girls and killing niggers too.

you shame the services, if you ever did in fact serve, by such a statement.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

doesn't count for crap in the Air Force, and looking like you're doing stuff when the seniors are around is called "shining it on," which was done by people who didn't know sh!t from shinola and thought they could 'rate' by looking cool.

It didn't fly in the service in the '70s and '80s.
Knowing your job and doing it is how you get ahead. That's where I trained, and how I worked.

Unless Rummy totally corrupted the entire uniformed services (and that's a possibility, although I would have thought it would take longer to completely screw up the senior enlisted personnel), you're shining us on.

Stop it.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

That is correct...Civilians are our bosses. The command I'm current at, NPTU Charleston, is actually run by Bettis and Naval Reactors, by civilians, despite the fact that the Navy provides all of the training personnel. The problem with that is a lot of the civilians have no more training on our reactors then what is given to them through Power School and Prototype. I still think it is hilarious when I hear a civilian say "Well, on a real boat..."

And obviously faking log books does matter, hence why the sailors involved are no longer Nukes.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

really. you don't impress me. you've already revealed your contempt for the people who pay your salary, whom you are supposed to be "defending." muling and bitching about how they don't really understand anything because without navy training they'd be lost...my god how stupid can you be?

hint: it wasn't the navy that invented nukes. you know that, right? weak, soft, non-murdering civvies did that, and stressed over it, because they knew people like you would eventually control those weapons.

look, i'm beyond tolerant. i welcome trolls here, unlike many of my blogmates. but you make me sick. i don't want you to cease posting here, but i want to make it clear, as a third generation service member: you shame all of us who understand what the uniform is really about. i'm trying to help you understand that, and why your attitude has killed representative, Constitutional democracy in this country. hopefully, my anger won't prevent you from thinking about what i mean.

if i were religious, this would be the time i would ask (god of your choice) to forgive me for my outburst. but i'm not.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

EMn2 isn't the same as MM2.

i apologize for the outburst.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

For starters, let me apologize for writing the wrong name on my last comment.

Ok, I have no problem with civilians, in general, but it is extremely difficult to maintain a military state of mind in an enviroment that is actually run by civilians. I won't lie, there are times that I feel resentful towards them for one reason or another. But if you want to go with the agrument that civilians in general are my bosses, then it would be fair to say that I'm my own boss since I pay taxes and vote.

But anyways, when did this go from nuclear power to nuclear weapons? There is a HUGE difference between the two.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I've been working on reactors for a while. I don't personally know the people involved but one of my friends does. What happened was in no way shape or form compromising to the safety of the ship. The article had no correct technical facts.

Criticality is a GOOD thing. It means your reactor is "on"

Chemicals are not used for criticality.

Submarine school is what ONLY NON-NUCLEAR TRAINED PERSONNEL go to. It teaches emergency escape procedures, basic damage control, and some other stuff. You learn nothing about reactors there. The only people that are qualified to talk about reactors go to nuke school.

As far as being kept quiet? This "incident" is about as important as not doing a daily chemistry check on your indoor pool to make sure its safe enough to swim in. The big deal is that nuclear operators lied on logs.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

they carry nuclear weapons.

The USAF hasn't got (out in public) nuclear-powered aircraft in operation, but they do have nuclear-capable aircraft with sophisticated systems and, at least in theory, trained personnel who follow carefully thought-out protocols when handling nuclear materials OR the systems that carry nuclear weapons.

My reading of this business of falsified logs is the same as my reading of the dropped bomber at Fairchild.

Somebody was either sloppy or arrogant or both, and higher-ups did NOTHING to correct the fault(s).

Fortunately, in the case of the sub, no lives were lost.
This time. Sadly, the aircrew flying with the guy who wanted to prove he was the hottest Buff pilot ever died.

It goes to what's called a "pattern of behavior."
On board an aircraft, carelessness = crash.
On board a submarine, carelessness = sinking.

Neither of these is a good thing. The price can be figured in loss of assets, loss of life, loss of trained personnel, loss of mission readiness, loss of capability, loss of public confidence, loss of oppositional respect. The common factor is always loss.

I believe that the current administration, even with Gates in place and Rumsfeld gone, has worked very hard indeed to break our military. The pattern of behavior indicates that work remains ongoing.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Sarah, again, you are basing your point off of politics. You say that the administration is breaking the military, as a whole. So, people who have been in the Navy for longer then the administration has been in power can now blame their laziness on their new boss? That doesn't make a lick of sense.

What happened isn't a new problem, those people just happened to get caught. Let me see you take the same logs for 3 months when nothing on what you take ever changes and see if you aren't tempted to just fill in the blanks. Despite the fact that we are running a nuclear reactor, our job is extremely boring and repetitive, and when the opportunity presents itself..stuff like this happens. I'm not saying that everyone does it, and I'm not saying that it's right, but it happens.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

as a civilian after my service one of my jobs did involve reading gauges and monitoring systems that, barring a disastrous event, never changed. But it was in the specs for the job when I got it, and it was in the specs for the job when I (because of a broken ankle and ship's ladders in the tunnels) had to leave it. The log books showed my readings, including the time I left the control room to take them and the time I got back from taking them, in detail, every shift I worked.

Politics may drive my dislike of this administration, but it's not the only reason I'm worried about our military.

My point is that prior to 2001, the military had been undergoing downsizing -- yes, some of it was done under Bill Clinton, but most of it started post "Contract With America" when Gingrich & Co. thought they could save some cash by closing bases.

Since 2001 it's been undergoing "modernization" designed by, as best I can tell, a cabal of privateers guided by principles of "if it breaks we need a new (private contractor) one anyway," which is no way to run your car or your chainsaw, let alone a superpower-level military.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by lambert on

Upthread:

The command I’m current at, NPTU Charleston, is actually run by Bettis and Naval Reactors, by civilians, despite the fact that the Navy provides all of the training personnel. The problem with that is a lot of the civilians have no more training on our reactors then what is given to them through Power School and Prototype. I still think it is hilarious when I hear a civilian say “Well, on a real boat…”

Please, please, all contractors are not "civilians..." (The actual test that the Hampton Crew did not do. If you can say--Was that put in place by civilians?) Ah yes, Bettis is Bechtel. Looks like they've been in this business for some time, but it would be very interesting to know if their contracting has ramped up a whole lot under Rummy.

EMN2 writes also:

Sarah, again, you are basing your point off of politics. You say that the administration is breaking the military, as a whole. So, people who have been in the Navy for longer then the administration has been in power can now blame their laziness on their new boss? That doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Surely, by this point, we know that people, even the best people, can behave differently when they are placed in different systems? (Ever hear of the Stanford Experiment? Or, for that matter, the Hawthorne Studies?) The point is not to excuse bad or lax behavior; the point is to look at what, in the system, if anything, is causing or enabling the bad behavior and see what can be done about that at the systemic level. If you want to call that politics, fine.

And re politics, I think it's like this: If you (by "you," I mean anybody, not you personally) go to a meeting, and you don't know what the agenda is, then the agenda is you. And if you go into a situation, and you don't know what the politics are, then the agenda is you, too--how to exploit you, or what can be gotten from you.

Thanks for engaging, EMN2. Stupid or not, I'd like to think I'm learning from this thread....

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I agree that people act differently in different systems. But, in this case, you are talking about a system that is so large and convoluted that the changing of the top 2 or 3 in the chain isn't going to effect the system at all on the smaller level. I can guarantee you that if you went to anyone that has served as President, or the Secretary of the Navy, or the Secretary of Defense, and tried to explain to them exactly that happened on the Hampton, they would most likely just nod their head and say yes at everything you say because they have no idea what any of the words coming out of your mouth mean. Now the changing of the CO of a particular boat, or of a squadron...then you might see ripples through the system which they affect. As this was an isolated incident, on a single boat, in a single squadron, at least that has been reported, then you can't blame it on the top guys. That was the point that I was trying to make. Hopefully its more clear now.

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

If it happened on one boat, it happened on others. Everyone involved should have at least an Article 31 attached to their records, and the officers should get (career-ending) reprimands...
\

How's that, o censorious one?

Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Submitted by lambert on

is an alibi for the higherups

Bush et al enabled Abu Ghraib by subverting the chain of command with winks and nods, and then throwing the troops over the side with the bad apple theory.

I'm guessing it's just the same here. From the 30,000 foot level.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

Our Sub guy claims: As this was an isolated incident, on a single boat, in a single squadron, at least that has been reported, then you can’t blame it on the top guys.

lb/sarah, i think you and i are arguing that the 'top guys' are ALWAYS responsible...otherwise it makes no sense to have a hierarchy WITH TOP GUYS, right? These guys are just whitewashing the problem...hence my (subsequently, and swiftly, and imho senselessly scrubbed) remark about their having drunk the "nucular kook-aid."

Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Submitted by lambert on

I've tried.

And then I've really tried.

* * *

As far as systemic: There are many pathways to misfortune. I can think of two in this case:

1. As at Abu Ghraib, Bush giving permission for torture. The chain of command rotted, and then the "bad apples" only were held accountable.

2. Or, generally, increased operational tempo, lack of funding and equipment where it matters (armor) as opposed to lavish funding were it doesn't matter (name it), combined with privatization.

I don't think case #1 applies to the Hampton. But I am wondering if case #2 does. And whenever I hear "isolated incidents" I become suspicious.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I am thankful my opportunity to serve this great nation. One day my grandchildren will be able to read about the things we did to prevent substantial loss of life. What turns my stomach are the comments that attack those who chose to place themselves in harm's way to protect the very freedom to post such drivel. The events on USS Hampton are but a tiny speck on the pages of history. We systematically kill unborn children, murder each other in our own streets and now have the audacity to tell someone how to fold the flag over the casket of a United States Veteran. Please put the needs of this nation over your need to be heard as the "voice crying in the wilderness". This event was about personal INTEGRITY. Since our military is but a reflection of our society, what can you expect? We don't hold anyone accountable for their actions. We medicate our children into submission. We've forgotten that true FREEDOM requires SACRIFICE. I've lost a loved on in IRAQ and had a close friend lose his son. They were professional and dedicated. When you travel about today, think about your every movement, look over your shoulder, under your car, drive a different way home, go home and lock yourself inside. Then you'll get a little taste of how you want it to be! Have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what's right and what you believe in!

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

Nobody's died in Iraq for 'freedom' except for Iraqis...US/coalition troops there are invaders and occupiers: ipso facto, bad guys. Live Widdit! You can paint dat pig any color you wanna, it ain't gonna change anything. It's not their fault, it is the fault of their 'leaders' who chose to spend their lives on vanity and oil.
Yeah, i served, 9/64-8/68. Any other questions? ESAD, cully...

(Lb: Note my restraint?)
Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Thanks for serving.

I'm as grateful to you as I am my next-door neighbor and my brother, but because of you -- not them -- I am damn glad I'm not in the military anymore, and even more so that my sons didn't pursue their ROTC scholarship offers.

I don't want to be "protected" by a self-righteous, desperate-sounding, sanctimonious authoritarian whining about the need to "fight them over there" so we don't have to "fight them over here," and I'm damn sure not going to give any credence to your complaint about not holding anybody accountable when you're excusing breaking Navy Regs and violating operational procedures aboard a nuclear boat as "a tiny speck on the pages of history".

Abu Ghraieb isn't a tiny speck.
Guantanamo isn't a tiny speck.
11SEP01 wasn't a tiny speck.
Waterboarding isn't a tiny speck.
Forced pregnancy isn't a tiny speck.
Treason -- can you really call starting a war of aggression on a bed of lies anything else? Can you really call outing a CIA operative in a snitfit over having your cooked intelligence questioned anything else? Can you really call firing US Attorneys who wouldn't prosecute your political enemies exclusively anything else? -- isn't a tiny speck.
Third tours in Iraq, Stop Loss orders, 4500 dead GIs and more than a million dead Iraqis aren't tiny specks.
Extraordinary rendition and 'aggressive interrogation techniques' -- for God's sake, we're justifying DROWNING PRISONERS REPEATEDLY now, right back to the fucking Salem Witch Trials -- aren't tiny specks.

I stand up for what I believe in every day.
Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Powell, and Bush are guilty of treason and war crimes. Impeach. Convict. Imprison.
Do it now because it's too late to do it any sooner.

And you take your self-righteous attitude about my freedom and shove it, mister.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Thanks for responding to my comments. It confirms what I've believed all along.
I wish the best for you. I hope one day there will be joy and peace in your heart.

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

...will occur when you Christianista manage to rapture yourselves into your own private Idahos and leave the rest of the human race alone.

If there were any way your Elder God could invite you onwards, without wrecking the planet for us biological human beings, believe me, the rest of the human race would be all for it.

Alas, that's all mythology. Your Elder God is a delusion. The only recourse we have is to try to reason with you.

But since you are unreasonable, the best we can do is expose your incompetence and endeavor to make sure you stay firmly strapped into your child's seat in the car. Or at home in your playpens.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Isn't attacking someone's religious beliefs a bit below the belt and way off from the point of this debate? Discussion and debate is one thing, but personal attacks is another. And just because someone is a conservative means that they are religious fanatics.

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

the large majority of stupid people are conservatives," in paraphrase, might apply, n'est pas?
Hence: "Not all conservatives are religious fanatics, but all the most religious fanatics are conservatives."
Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

implication that nobody outside TMC(SS) has ever, whether in the service or not, stood up for what they believe in I find repellent.

By extension, I find the notion that only people who falsify logs and die in a war based on lies are patriots abhorrent.

Suck on that.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Dyke you really aggrovate me, obviously sarcasm doesnt come through well here but no where did i attack anyones intelligence besides navy personnel, in a way, and no where did i say navy training was next to godliness, no where did i say that forging or just not doing the logs was ok.

As for the people who pay our salaries, obviously you dont know how much of our own salary we pay, mostly from the nuclear trained, any bonus we get, which arent small, are taxed rediculously, and we pay the same taxes you do for the most part although we get breaks in some places, although the patriotism of our country to our troops through corporations and companies usually reduces the quality of anything we can get those breaks on.

Having to work for someone who controls your career in his hands and can make or break it on a whim and not being able to really refute what he says, and not being able to quit, sure you can change commands but now youre the guy who has a bad eval and got kicked off your last boat because "fill in the blank".

As for my service to the country and you questioning it, ... I'm speechless.I may have a bit of contempt against "civilians" in general, maybe its because ive seen 3/4 fathers not see thier children born and say thier first words or take thier first steps, not having seen our families for months and for single sailors maybe years, and then we come home to picketers at our bases yelling and cursing at us calling us baby killers and so on. Maybe that gives me a bad image of people in general, as for the people on the hampton, no one has defended them. I personally have served the country as best that i could, even if what i do is extremely lame and boring its important in its way. If you want to take what i said explaining what happened and why it could have happened on the hampton and act like theyre my actions, screw you.

As for actions to solve the problem, theyve done what they can really, theyve fired the captain, probably the division officer doesnt specify who the officer was, and the Division, thats EVERYONE on the boat that is really involved with chemistry, and im sure there is lots of training to follow across the fleet with this, i know ive heard something already, what more would you suggest for our actions to prevent this from happening ? Ask pretty please that no one lies? Make us sign another contract?

I'm happy that I am defending my country even though its just tooling around in an ocean doing "5 knots to nowhere", I'm happy with what I get to do and that ive gotten the opportunity to do it, theres alot of bullshit that goes along with it though, when some high ranking officer comes down to our boat or some senator comes down to our boat and suddenly cleaning underneath the shitter and making it sparkle becomes more important than getting that hydrostatic test done that will allow the boat to go back into the water and recirtify it ... that also shows whats really important to our civilian counterparts who are "in charge of us"

"Shining it on" is part of the job, politics are part of the job, honesty and diligence are also part of the job, which are more important ? Most the time it seems shining it on and the politics are much more important

I think alot of people in the military if you ask them will say its not worth it, not because of the risk of death or leaving thier family or anythign like that, in my job youre fighting an invisible enemy, and you fight him by cleaning, and pretending the boats on fire, or the rector is broken, and not only do you have to be good at how to pretend to fix it you have to be good at pretending that its broken so everyone else can pretend to react right, alot of the time it leaves you wondering when youre really going to do something and what are we really defending, i can see how what on the hampton would happen but i wouldnt do it, i wouldnt think a whole division would do that, but different boats are completely different. I'm not good at actually getting to a point, so ill end after this, the job is demeaning, oft times our "by the book" procedures are wrong, and its frankly just not worth the time and effort we put into the job.

I really dont think i got out what i wanted to say ... anyhoo happy holloween-ish.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Amen brother.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I am amazed at how the uninformed can memorize all the "hot-button" words and phrases to spark hysteria and indignation in people without ever learning anything about what it is they're ranting over.
As a former submariner, a former nuke, and a former Hampton crewmember (off since 2005), I would like to make one thing perfectly clear:
Naval Nuclear Propulsion is a very well- organized, planned, and instituted system. Many would have the unsuspecting public believe that those nuclear reactors are dangerous and scary and could blow at any minute. Well, it's just not that way. In fact, unlike many other countries in this world that use nuclear-powered vessels, US Navy reactors are designed to require effort to operate, not to shut down. In US subs, if something goes wrong, the reactor doesn't just go poof or boom or anything like that--it just shuts down.
The initiated know that Navy nuclear power is overly-redundant and super-conservative in its estimation of dangerous or even undesireable conditions. Any nuke or former nuke remembers that old casualty known as the "whole crew is dead" scenario. You have to tell what happens to the reactor without anybody to check or operate things. The answer is, the reactor shuts down, the ship sinks, and you have a very hot, but useless nuclear submarine sitting on the bottom of the ocean.
So, without saying anything that I could be in trouble for, I just want to make it clear that the "fib" about the safety of the crew and the public is actually a true statement. This unfortunate situation created no more unsafe conditions than exist normally while there are floating nuclear reactors on the ocean.
Don't get me wrong, my heart sank at reading about this incident and I still greive that the Navy's integrity training fails to stick for all sailors. While I know for a fact that this was not a nuclear "disaster," I am very disturbed at how something like this could go on for so long without anyone noticing. It either speaks of a near boat-wide conspiracy to cover it up (unlikely, especially because the disclosing investigation was an expected one) or, more likely excessive complacency and a lack of integrity on the part of certain members of the crew.
It's highly illogical that those involved intentionally did things this way (except for the moronic ELT that thought it would be ok to fake logs) because with everything that could've been forseen leading up to the discovery of the problem, anyone who intentionally became part of it would have been embarking on an undoubtedly career-ending path.
We should, however, not make this out to be more than it really is. Failing to perform necessary duties in the military is reprehensible and falsifying logs is detestable, but we can all admit that if the parameter in question here were the temperature of the water used to wash the crew's dishes, nobody would even care. The fact that this happened in the Engine Room of a nuclear sub carries more weight than the problem itself does.
By the way, not in all of nuke chemistry is there a "meter" the ELT reads to determine any "crucial" parameters. That's why the Navy specially trains certain (top-performing) personnel to be the chemistry and radcon experts--to avoid any possibility that the public's perception of the nuclear navy's safety record would be tainted because of a mechanical error or malfunction. Nuke chemistry is done by people, who have to sample things, measure things, mix things, stir things, heat things, compare things, etc. to determine whether the plant is being operated within tolerances. And, of course, because there are human hands involved and with them, the possibility of human error, precautions are built in to widen the margin of error that much more.

And lastly, the video alluded to in the article from WTKR doesn't show anything that's not readily open to the general public (with the exception of berthing). My parents were given a tour (by the OOD) of the Hampton once while I was on board and saw everything shown in the video (again, minus berthing, since people were already asleep).

Submitted by lambert on

That is all. For now.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I'm sorry to go back to the very beginning, but it really doesn't get better than Prince Namor's account (Why did they just not read the safety meter?)

The integrity violations aboard Hampton were far less repulsive than the betrayal which followed once the chips were down. Like the mobster living in witness protection.

Standards - It is true that standards were not met. The requirements are rather strict (and rightfully so). An important aspect of the program, forgive me if it has been mentioned already, is that we intentionally overreact to minor problems in order to prevent them from becoming big problems. For someone who was not of a technical persuasion growing up, I've found it extremely tough to adhere to the level of detail that comes with the job.
As for the incidents on Hampton - I'm surprised this has been in the press at all, but I guess I'd rather the public knew about some unimportant stuff than not know something big. Not that there's something big. To know.

ETCS said "One thing for sure though is I’m sure the nuclear community is doing some sole searching right now regarding integrity. I’m sure that what used to be 6 hours of log taking will now be 6 hours of log taking followed by 6 hours of training…LOL."

They say there's soul searching going on. I haven't seen it - in the meantime all that's happened to Hampton is that the guys who were promised stand-down lost it and are working as much as ever to get ready for the next deployment (I think the biggest fib PA told regarded operations being halted. Which operations, exactly, were halted?)

Liberal submariner said: "Look, these guys deserved to be fired — a disgrace to the Navy."

Some of them were and some of them weren't.

Kelley B said: "If there were any way your Elder God could invite you onwards, without wrecking the planet for us biological human beings, believe me, the rest of the human race would be all for it."

Everybody knows that dishonest robot human beings and honest biological human beings can never coexist.

I cracked up a little when someone (Lambert, I think) called it an OB problem; I've been saying that for a year now. This place IS an OB nightmare and an extremely frustrating place to work.

Anyway, good luck with the Reactor Theory... I know a guy who'll teach you everything you need to know. Sign here, here, here. Initial here. See the world!

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I, being the one who started this, albeit as Trilby to Prince Namor's Svengali, am curious here.

This was originally something that I posted because Prince Namor (who was in fact a sub-mariner; anybody who doubts this is cordially invited to bite me) was horrified by the story. It wasn't getting much attention, and the official pronouncements being made about it seemed to consist largely of mermaid poop, and he was irate.

But the only intent was to bring it to wider attention as a news story. Not to imply that the nuclear navy was in total disarray, or that atomic doom was about to visit the ocean, or to incite public hysteria or anything of the sort. Just a story that deserved to be told.

I don't quite get from your post what your interest is in keeping the Hampton's unfortunate incident "alive." If you read the original posts, and the comments up above here, I think you'll see that we've pretty well beaten it as far to death as we can from the information that was publicly released. To go much beyond that would presumably require a violation of security rules, and unless this is way worse than anything already released, that seems unnecessary.

So i ask again, what are you trying to say here?

Submitted by lambert on

What I said. I don't feel insulted! (And, in any case, there are never any insults hurled in our Comments section. Not.)

How long before they privatize it all, I wonder?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

The analysis in question did not exist in the fleet a decade ago, and only recently became common. The property being measured also did not exist - it's a constituent recently added to the reactor coolant system that improves the already superb long-term radiological performance of the system.

We "got along without it" for so long because there was nothing to measure before the design was improved.

MSimon's picture
Submitted by MSimon on

I'm a former surface skimmer nuke.

If Bubblehead has vetted this story you can take it to the bank. He is AOK. Squared Away.

Any you are right about the training. It is the geekiest you can get and still be at the pointy end of the spear.

BTW Bubblehead is not real fond of skimmers (its a Navy thing) but he can vouch for me. We have had some good interactions.

I can't vouch for all your current technical details because I was

1. Surface
2. Last on a nuke in '66

And yeah. Rickover would have spit roasted these mopes. Occasional creative log entries were not unknown. But this is flat out ridiculous.

MSimon's picture
Submitted by MSimon on

I remember the deck plates. Not just spotless clean. Not just shiny. Polished. We polished the fookin deck plates because we were nooclear.

I must say that keeping the diesels up to snuff was critical.

I was in the War Zone off 'Nam in '66 with one reactor down for maintenance. Then some idiot made a mistake and scrammed the operating reactor. You then go through an all hands (engineering) evolution. I was sent forward to double check that the diesel had automatically started. I watched it for a couple of minutes to make sure it functioned properly and then reported back to the engine room for a hot restart. Probably the most dangerous evolution in the Naval Reactor business. I helped double check the calculations. Three of us checked them and then the watch officer rechecked.

Then it was yank the rods time. All this in less than 30 minutes from the scram.

Fun stuff. In a War Zone.

Maintaining the diesels is nothing to sneeze at.