Silent Dangers: Assessing the Threat of Nuclear Submarines

The Outrider Foundation works to build understanding on issues related to the environment and nuclear weapons, and nuclear submarines pose a threat to both. This report develops the first catalog of nuclear submarine failures, with roughly 500 cases by 226 individual submarines from six countries. The data indicates that newer submarine classes experienced a greater volume — and seriousness — of failures early in their service lives; that collisions had a greater impact on geopolitical security, while equipment failures, as well as cases related to fire and water, had the greatest impact on the environment; and that submarine failures generally produced two kinds of costs: chronic and acute. This report also observes a marked reduction in the number of failures after the end of the Cold War but anticipates a potential for proliferation in the number of countries with programs in the future.


  • Course: Spring 2019 Workshop in International Public Affairs, PA 860, taught by Tim Smeeding
  • Authors: Marek Benda, Avneesh Chandra, Signe Janoska-Bedi, Jamey Kane, Jonny Vannucci
  • Client: Outrider Foundation

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