By Roman Fomishenko Krasnaya Zvezda, July 26, 2001, p. 1
Members of the Government Commission for the investigation of the Kursk tragedy, the management of the Rubin Design Bureau, and the Russian Navy command have repeatedly reported total readiness for the lifting of the nuclear submarine Kursk which sank in the Barents Sea in August 2001. Furthermore, the salvaging operation has already started in the disaster area. However, the press continues to assert that the operation will fail and is in fact nothing more than a farce. (…)
Vladimir Koloskov: I would refer to these reports as a farce. As to our readiness, all I can say is this – if we were not ready we would not have started the operation in the first place. The Rubin Design Bureau, specialists form the Krylov Central Research Institute, two naval research institutes, Nizhny Novgorod Experimental Design Bureau of Machine-Building, the Gidropribor Research Institute, and a number of other agencies spent several months planning this operation and calculating all the possible hazards of lifting the Kursk. In the initial phase we made all the calculations, which will now help us organize a well-planned, qualified procedure of lifting the submarine’s hull with regard to all safety precautions.
Question: Much apprehension was voiced in the preparatory phase regarding the submarine’s nuclear power plant. How do you estimate the plant’s current state?
Vladimir Koloskov: The radioactivity level in the disaster area is within the norm – it has been normal ever since the Kursk sank. The Rubin Design Bureau and the Kurchatov Research Institute have evaluated the reactors’ condition and established that they are absolutely dead. The design of the reactor mounts and the reactor compartment are fitted with a system of protective barriers: the coating of heat-emitting elements, the first firm casing, the special compartment, the reactor compartment bulkhead, and the firm hull itself. A radiation outburst could have happened only if all these barriers had been destroyed. But this was not the case – we have the right to assume that the barriers – or part of them – withstood the crash. Our calculations allow us to state that the reactor is firmly standing on its fundament and the emergency protection system of the power mount was automatically activated immediately after the power cut-off in the reactor control system.
In order to totally debunk the myth about any radiation increase I will tell you this fact: specialists of the Norwegian radiation service took a service accumulating radioactivity counter from the suit of one of the Kursk crew members whose body was lifted in October 2000. After the analysis they arrived at the conclusion that the radiation level inside the submarine is within the norm.
Question: Why did the Rubin Design Bureau choose the Dutch company Mammout as the contractor of the operation?
Vladimir Koloskov: Among all the possible contractors, this company suggested the best way of lifting the submarine. The matter first of all concerns the technological aspect. The use of hydraulic jacks (…) will guarantee the lifting of the hull from the seabed. Preliminary calculations show that the lifting of the sub is possible without the erosion of the seabed underneath the hull. (…)
Question: What instruments will divers use when cutting holes in the hull?
Vladimir Koloskov: As in October 2000, they will use a special hydraulic abrasive cutting device. This time there will be two such devices, even more powerful than the one provided by the company Halliberten. They will help us cut through the light hull and the rubber filling. (…)
Question: Will the bow compartment be separated from the hull with help of other mechanisms?
Vladimir Koloskov: It certainly will. Special props will be fitted on either side of the boat to support cutting equipment and mechanisms. Special detectors will monitor the degree of the props’ stability and also the speed of the cutting chain’s movement and its tension.
Question: How will the submarine be attached to the barge?
Vladimir Koloskov: A special aperture will be made in the bottom of the barge to let in the submarine’s periscope and sonar. After that the craft will be fastened to the barge.
Question: What will specialists do with the craft in the dock of the Roslyakovsky shipyard?
Vladimir Koloskov: Special trays will be positioned under the submarine to receive water from the tanks. Water will be pumped out of the compartments through technological apertures. Forensic experts and prosecutors will be the first to enter the submarine. Only after they have evacuated the crew members’ bodies and accomplished investigation procedures will technical specialists explore each and every system and mechanism and make up detailed technical reports. After that the technical apertures will be welded and the sub will be tested for water-tigntness. The sub will then be delivered to the Nerpa dockyard.
Question: This is some task. How do you see your major role as a representative of the design bureau which developed the Kursk?
Vladimir Koloskov: As is known, it is impossible to calculate everything in advance. Some decisions may need adjustment already during the operation. (…) The success of the operation will largely depend on its proper organization, which is the mission of the company Mammout.