New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Friday, 12 October 2012

Russia to Dismantle Two Sunken Nuclear Subs

Russia to Dismantle Two Sunken Nuclear Subs

Photo: K-27.
Under updated project of the Arctic Zone Development Strategy, Russian defense ministry will lift from the seabed and dismantle two nuclear-powered submarines K-27 and K-159, writesIzvestiya newspaper referring to a source in the ministry. Formerly, those subs served at Soviet Northern Fleet (NF). Technically, Russian military cannot perform that works, so it is planned to open an international tender. 

As is expected, the tenderers would be American, Dutch, French, and South Korean companies specialized in underwater wreck-lifting works. In particular, Dutch companyMammoet which lifted Antei-class SSN Kursk perished in 2000 may also take part in the tender. 

Project 645ZMT nuclear submarine K-27 was decommissioned from Soviet Navy in 1980 and drowned in the Kara Sea in 1982. Now she is lying on the seabed at the depth about 75 meters. The sub was written-off due to breakdown of a nuclear reactor RM-1 cooled by liquid metal. As a result, the submarine was contaminated by radioactive agents, and the whole crew (105 men) endured acute radiation sickness. Nine men died. 

Project 627A Kit nuclear submarine K-159 was decommissioned in 1989 and stayed mothballed right up to 2003. The submarine sank during towage from the Gremiha Bay to the Nerpa shipyard for utilization. As a result of the incident, nine men died. It is unknown at what depth the submarine lies; according to different estimates, it is 170-250 meters. 

The source of Izvestiya says the Navy is not properly equipped to lift sunken objects from the seabed. Soon after the wreck of Kursk, Russia purchased five stand-alone unmanned British submersibles Venom and three Iceland ones Gavia. However, all of them are used for search-and-rescue works but not for shipwreck lifting. 

Nonetheless, the newspaper's source in defense industry said the K-27 and K-159 submarines could be lifted by several Russian companies or United Shipbuilding Corporation affiliates. So far, precise volume of works is unknown. In particular, it is unclear whether Russian military needs to lift whole subs or their parts.

Source: Rusnavy.

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