I saw a documentary on TV the other day, drawing a parallel between this accident and an accident with a British submarine in the 50's. The British sub had a new kind of torpedo on board, which used hydrogen peroxide instead of compressed air for fuelling the engine. Apparantly hydrogen peroxide can react rather violently with metals like copper, thus producing lots of steam. The increased pressure creates a huge explosion, triggering a fire and the subsequent exploding of all the other torpedoes.
There was more evidence for this theory in the form of seismic readings from a British geological institution. They registered the explosion of the Kursk, but the big explosion was preceeded by a much smaller explosion. This smaller explosion had the signature and size of an exploding hydrogen peroxide fuel tank. Apparantly the Russians use peroxide in their torpedoes, and if this accident had the same cause as the British disaster from the 50's, the accident was caused by starting the engine of the torpedo whilst still in the submarine. The propellor doesn't have any resistence then, the engine revs too high and the subsequent increase in pressure in the system can lead to a rupture of the fuel and peroxide leading to the engine. The released peroxide reacts with the copper pipes in the torpedo, leading to the first explosion.
BTW it is not a coincedence that the nose isn't being salvaged: the nose has been so severely damaged that they cannot attach lines to it. So it would be very hard to keep the sub in balance whilst hoisting it to the surface without being able to attach cables to it. They plan to salvage the nose section next year.
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