The derelict nuclear submarine that sank in the fish-rich Barents Sea while en route to a scrapyard cannot be raised until at least next year, a Russian naval chief said today.
The submarine K-159 sank on Saturday during a fierce storm while being towed to a port on the Kola Peninsula where its reactor was to be removed and dismantled and the rest of the ship scrapped.
Nine of the 10 men aboard were killed.
Navy and Atomic Energy Ministry officials said radiation levels remained normal in the sinking area – 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
But environmentalists warned after the sinking that the contamination danger was substantial.
The Russian Navy’s chief of general staff Admiral Viktor Kravchenko said “the ship must be raised in order to carry out a complete unloading of the reactor.”
Kravchenko said it would be unfeasible to try to cut the reactor out of the ship, which is lying on its side at a depth of 780 feet.
Preparatory work is under way for the complex raising operation, he said, but the lifting could not begin before 2004.
The raising operation’s complexity is likely to be increased by the severe weather that often hits the Barents Sea, where gales sometimes whip up on short notice.