YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, October 27 (RIA Novosti's Pyotr Tsyrendorzhiyev) - Next spring, an operation to recover a radioisotope generator that scuttled during an emergency in the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Sakhalin Island. The generator was discovered by a special expedition in seven years it was scuttled, members of the special scientific operation said at a press conference Wednesday.

Scientists from the Pacific Fleet's Hydrographic Service, Krasnoarmeisk Research Institute of Mechanization, the Moscow Fort-21 scientific and industrial enterprise and a group of divers from Sakhalin were involved in the expedition.

In the spring, they will recover the radionuclide thermal electric generator from a depth of more than 34 meters.

In August 1997, a civilian helicopter was transporting the 2.5 metric ton generator to a Pacific Fleet lighthouse on Maria Cape south of Sakhalin Island. The generator was to supply electricity for the lighthouse.

As the helicopter approached its destination, there was a strong wind and to avoid a fatal accident, the pilot of the helicopter was forced to drop the generator into water.

This fall, modern hydroacoustic equipment developed by a Russian defense enterprise, located the generator.

According to information the military told ecologists, the recovery operation will take about a month and a half.

"The generator's depth is the limit for recovery," a member of the expedition said, "but the current in that area is strong. Because of this, the divers will not be able to work more than one hour a day between the tides and ebbs and only if there is not a storm."

When recovered, the generator will be taken outside the Sakhalin Region and then scrapped by the Pacific Fleet, which is also funding the recovery operation.

The members of the expedition have established that the generator was not damaged and that it is on sand about a mile from the shore. The generator contains the radioactive element Strontium-90. The radiation background in the area is normal.

For seven years, the generator was in strong currents which wash the island from the east and move farther to Japan. The manufacturer guarantees that the generator has a 10-15 year service life in normal conditions.

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