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The two subs in question – the K-159 and the K-27 – lay on the ocean floor, the first at the entrance to Kola Bay and the second in the shallows surrounding the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, a former nuclear bomb testing range during Soviet times, as well as something of a dumping ground for Cold War legacy nuclear waste.
Both have also been the subject of long-time promises by Russian officials that they will indeed be raised.
The biggest problem regarding Russia’s downed vessels is that the chain of their custody and who is responsible for them is sketchy – save for the K-159, which is the clear purview of Russian Ministry of Defense.
“The necessity of raising the K-27 and the K-159 has long been under discussion,” said Alexander Nikitin, chairman of the Environment and Right Center (ERC) Bellona in St. “Three years ago, they were established as priorities.
In 2012, it was established that the spent nuclear fuel in its reactors measured some 5319.7 terebequerel (143.8 kilocurie), which exceeds the activity of Russia’s other sunken radiological objects.
The K-159 lacked an extra protective barrier between the spent nuclear fuel storage and the rest of he submarine, which increases the risk of possible radioactive leakage.
The Komsomolets is the only vessel from which the escape of radionuclides into the undersea environmental has been established as a result of loss of integrity of the No 1 reactor chamber.
However, the most recent investigation of the vessel, dating back to 2007, established that since 1994, the concentration of radionuclides escaping the vessel has been on a steady decrease of up to 30 times the initial measurements.
The fact that Russia – at least in Kazennov’s opinion – is closely monitoring the conditions of its sunken vessels doesn’t mean it’s in any technological position to raise them.
“If we don’t do it now, then there won’t be anywhere to do it in the future.” Risks to oil and gas activities Kazennov added that a detailed inventory of sunken radiological hazards in the Arctic is necessary, after which a complex radiological engineering study can be completed.
This will facilitate the creation of a database on the conditions of the sunken radioactive junk, leading to a future master plan for handling it.
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