A Chinese Type-093 (Shang-class) nuclear attack submarine exploded underwater Wednesday afternoon in what appears to be an accident in the hotly disputed South China Sea, according to a Pentagon source speaking under promise of anonymity. Immediately after the event, graphs depicting heightened radiation levels near China’s Hainan naval base had surfaced on the internet, spawning irrational fears that the Communist nation had intentionally detonated a nuclear weapon in response to the United States’ support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Our source, however, said no evidence exists proving such a theory and that Beijing notified the White House shortly after a “malfunction” in the submarine’s reactor compartment triggered a cataclysmic explosion that vaporized the sub and killed 72 Chinese sailors. Besides, the White House would have interpreted a purposeful detonation near U.S. assets as a provocative act of war and responded militarily.
“Had this been deliberate, the president would have been on television last night telling America it is at war with China. There’s no way around that. And American military bases worldwide would be on the highest alert, especially in the Asian theater. But it’s business as usual,” our source said.
Moreover, the explosion occurred 530 kilometers from Hong Kong and 1,200 kilometers from Taiwan at a reported depth of 75 meters. Unlike surface and airburst nuclear detonations, underwater explosions leave little or no visible evidence; the water pressure is so great that rapid contraction collapses the fireball at once. In shallow explosions, a condensation cloud may breech the water. In either event, radioactive material that can persist for thousands of years, depending on the isotypes leaked, contaminates vast swaths of seawater. Had Xi Jinping ordered a nuclear detonation anywhere in the South China Sea, prevailing currents wound guarantee he irradiates his own population long before contaminated waters reach distant shores. China would have willingly created a Fukushima-like event to endanger its own population.
“The White House is convinced this is an accident,” our source reiterated. “Xi Jinping is a power-hungry Communist madman, but he’s not stupid. He isn’t going to kill off his own people,” our source said.
Although accidents involving nuclear submarines are considered rare, eight hulls currently lay dormant on seabeds across the world’s oceans, their reactors presumably intact.
The White House has not ruled out a second possibility: Sabotage.
Pressurized water reactors have redundant safeguards, and the Type 093’s is rated to operate at 160 atmospheres (a mile underwater), more than twice the sub’s unclassified crush depth, making inadvertent reactor cracks unlikely. Further, a submarine’s reactor is designed to scram automatically upon loss of electrical power. Whether accident or sabotage, a nuclear explosion of any size, either on land or at sea, could create an ecological crisis from which the planet may never recover.
Dr. Terrence Sykes, a professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana, wrote, “The majority of the material released would penetrate water and be absorbed by soil, plant, and animal life in the immediate vicinity first spread beyond the initial periphery based on the degree of radioactive contamination.”
Radiation in the effected region has since dropped to negligible levels, with some so-called conspiracy theorists accusing the United State and Chinese governments of saturating the area with lead particulates and shredded plexiglass to mask the genuine rad count.