Beijing: China has decommissioned its first nuclear-powered submarine after more than 40 years of service amidst the maiden display of its fleet of atomic submarines.
The Long March No.1`s nuclear devices were properly disposed of and scientists have decontaminated the warehouse where atomic items were stored during the past 40 years, the People`s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported on Tuesday.
The submarine will be used as an exhibit after it is released from military service.
China yesterday displayed its nuclear submarines for the first time to showcase their "excellent safety" record as part of a naval drill.
The Long March No.1 was launched in 1970 and commissioned in the navy four years later. It is a Han Class nuclear submarine, which was produced based on technologies of the 1950s and 1960s and has short range weapons.
With a displacement of 5,000 tons, this class is usually equipped with six torpedo tubes.
The submarines were shown as taking part in exercises along with naval ships and helicopters.
The manoeuvres in the west Pacific went on "despite foreign disturbance", the PLA said.
Though the media has not revealed the number of nuclear submarines, international defence experts estimate China has eight to 10 such vessels backed by 50 to 60 diesel and electric submarines.
The strength of Chinese naval personnel is estimated at around 2.25 lakh.
The decision to display the atomic submarines for the first time shows China`s confidence in its defence build-up and capability, a defence analyst said on TV.
It also demonstrates the transparency of China`s nuclear assets, he said.
The nuclear triad consisting of land, air and underwater capability is an important deterrence, he added.
Foreign military vessels and reconnaissance aircraft, reportedly from Japan and US, remained in the exercise area monitoring Chinese activity and seriously disturbing the drill, official media claimed.
Chinese authorities had previously publicised the exercise areas through international maritime organisations in accordance with global practices, alerting foreign vessels and planes to take precautions.
The drill is the first open-sea one in which maritime and air forces from all three of China`s fleets have taken part, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
"We are China`s first nuclear submarine force, and the 42 years since our establishment have witnessed our success in avoiding nuclear accidents," Rear Admiral Gao Feng, commander of one of the PLA navy submarine bases, told reporters.
Senior Captain Jin Xupu, deputy chief of staff of the base, said nuclear reactors in submarines are more sophisticated than those used in power stations and require higher safety standards.
"A nuclear submarine is like a moving nuclear power station, and its reactors must be capable of resisting stormy waves," he said.
Qu Weiping, former political commissar at the base said the world record for the longest submarine voyage of 90 days was set by one of his submarines.