The Russian Defense Ministry is planning to raise and scrap two sunken nuclear submarines in the northern Barents and Kara seas in order to prevent potential radioactive pollution of the area, the Izvestia newspaper said on Thursday.
The ministry will announce an international tender, which may include companies from the France, the Netherlands, South Korea and United States, as the Russian Navy does not have the necessary equipment to carry out deep-sea salvage operations, Izvestia said, citing a military source.
The B-159 (K-159), a November class nuclear submarine, sank in the Barents Sea in August 2003, 790 feet (238 m) down, with nine of her crew and 1760 lbs (800 kg) of spent nuclear fuel, while being moved for dismantling.
The K-27 was an experimental attack submarine built in 1962 and decommissioned in 1979 due to its troublesome nuclear reactors. Her reactor compartment was sealed and the submarine was scuttled in the eastern Kara Sea in 1982 at the depth of 220 feet (75 m).
After the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000, Russia has bought a number of deep-sea submersibles from the UK and Iceland, but these vessels are designed for search-and-rescue operations rather than salvage work.
Two Dutch companies, Mammoet and Smit International, contracted by the Russian government, salvaged the Kursk in 2001.
Meanwhile, the wreck of another sunken submarine, the Komsomolets, will most likely forever remain at the site where it sank in a 1989 accident, as a salvage operation would be too costly and dangerous.
The K-278 Komsomolets nuclear submarine sank in the Norwegian Sea on April 7, 1989, south of Bear Island. The submarine sank with its active reactor and two nuclear warheads on board, and lies at a depth of 5,560 feet (1,685 m).