IT IS UNLIKELY THAT THE KURSK WILL BE RAISED IN 2001

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Mikhail Khodarenok Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 19, 2001, pp. 1, 2

Experts think that the Kursk nuclear submarine will not be raised in 2001, because the Russian government has lost too much time

On May 18 in Moscow, Igor Spassky, General Designer of the Rubin design bureau, and Rear Admiral Mikhail Barskov, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, signed a contract to raise the Kursk nuclear submarine with the Dutch company Mammoet, which has broad experience in raising objects from the seabed. The company has a platform equipped with a crane with a lift capacity of 16,000 tons. At the same time, experts note that the company is not experienced in deep sea operations and has not taken part in projects linked with radiation sources.

The day before this, the companies Halliburton, Heerema Marine Contractors, and Smit Tak, which are members of the international consortium created to raise the Kursk nuclear submarine, received Russia’s official refusal to sign a contract with the consortium. The decision was an absolute surprise for the members of the consortium since all technical details of the project have been approved. The refusal did not explain why Russia finds the consortium unsuitable.

Many experts think that operations in the Barents Sea should have been begun in March or April. However, the government postponed the signing of the contract, and foreigners postponed preparations for raising the submarine. As a result, all plans have been infringed. Preparations for raising the submarine will take between two and three months. This means that the operation will begin in September at the earliest, when the autumn storm period begins in the Barents Sea.

The consortium proposed postponing of the operation until summer 2002 in order to avoid risk, but Russia did not agree with this change. Russian specialists insist on raising the submarine this summer. The government determined its positions very strictly and did not want to make a compromise. Representatives of the consortium then stated that they would not be able to raise the submarine this summer, which is the reason for the Russian government’s refusal of their services.

Some experts think that the Kursk nuclear submarine will not be raised this summer because cleanup activities will take too long. The leadership of the Russian Navy and the Rubin design bureau have wasted time needed for organizing a normal operation. To all appearances, Russia will not be able to discuss all details relevant to the salvage operation with new participants in such a situation. In addition, a floating dock in the Kolsk bay is not yet ready to take the Kursk submarine. According to the most optimistic reports, the dock will be ready in six months.

Admiral Yury Senatsky, Chief Specialist of the USSR Navy for salvage operations, stated that the organization of this operation “is worse than it looks”. This has been caused by the fact that “the operation has been prepared by a group of amateurs who have never raised a boat from the seabed, let alone a nuclear submarine”.

No one can answer the principal question: “Why raise the Kursk nuclear submarine?” The crew perished, and it will be impossible to identify seamen after long exposure to sea fauna. Certain experts exaggerate the danger of a hypothetical radiation disaster, since the Kursk is not the first nuclear submarine to sink as the result of a catastrophe. The nuclear submarines Komsomolets, K-8, and K-219 are still on the seabed. In addition to numerous containers with radioactive waste, the Navy sank nuclear power plants from the Lenin atomic-powered vessel and reactor compartments of broken submarines.

Many specialists think that the Kursk’s hull will behave unpredictably during the operation. In due time, Russia did not manage to raise the rescue capsule of the Komsomolets submarine, the characteristics of which cannot be compared with a nuclear submarine. Iron grabs designed for a multiple overload broke when the salvage service tried to raise the capsule, and it fell to the seabed.

Russian officials have become involved in petty intrigues over the Kursk submarine, instead of creating a memorial. As a result, the Navy’s tarnished reputation has worsened further. A short conclusion can be drawn from these activities: the submarine sank, the Navy did not have the necessary forces for rescuing live seamen, and the state does not have the technical means to raise the submarine from the seabed. In this regard, the Russian admirals’ slogan “Russia is a great naval power” gives rise to many questions.

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