The inferno that raged aboard the French Navy’s Perle nuclear submarine’s rear section on Friday morning may have sustained irreparable damage.
“If the thick hull [made of 80HY high-tensile steel]…is deformed, the boat is screwed,” a veteran submariner told French Var Matin newspaper.
Images circulating on social media show white clouds of smoke pouring into the sky. On Saturday, French defense minister Florence Parly said the fire had been put off in an operation that lasted around 14 hours.
The submarine was undergoing deep maintenance in the Mediterranean port of Toulon. The ship’s 48 megawatt pressurized water nuclear reactor, nuclear fuel and torpedoes/missiles were removed from the vessel in January to facilitate the renovation work undertaken by Naval Group. It was due for completion by February 2021.
The Perle is part of France's six Ruby-class nuclear submarines and entered service in 1993. The boat does not actually carry nuclear weapons, but is taskedwith protecting four larger Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
LeMonde, a local periodical, warned that should the Perle suffer “irremediable damage,” there was the possibility the entire organization of French nuclear deterrence may have to be rethought. And the Navy may have to give up on certain strategic missions.