Russia launches mission to the sunken Komsomolets nuclear submarine

Russian scientists have embarked on a mission to the Komsomolets, a Soviet nuclear submarine that sank 32 years ago during an onboard fire off Norway’s northern coast, killing 41, in a bid to determine whether the wreck presents threats to the undersea environment.

The scientists, from Rosgidromet, Russia’s state weather agency which also measures radiation, set sail from Arkhangelsk last week aboard the Professor Molchanov research vessels, reaching the accident site over the weekend, Russian media reported.

The voyage comes at a time of heightened concern over Soviet-era submarines that sank by accident, or were intentionally scuttled, in Arctic waters during the Cold War. Bellona has urged the eight-country Arctic Council, now convening under Russia’s two-year chairmanship, to address raising those subs, as well as dozens of other pieces of highly radioactive debris abandoned by the Soviet Navy at sea.

On Sunday, according to the Barents Observer, Russia’s foreign ministry issued an invitation to its Arctic Council counterparts to a conference scheduled for June 2022, where experts are expected to hash out next steps in retrieving that waste.

The Komsomolets – once the most advanced nuclear submarine in the Soviet Navy – was carrying two plutonium warheads when it went down on April 7, 1989. Those now lie at a depth of 1,680 meters with the rest of the sub’s wreckage and pose ongoing worries about radioactive leakage at the bottom of the Norwegian Sea.

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