Radiation leak from sunken Russian nuclear sub 'no threat' - Norway researchers

Petersburg showing the nuclear-powered submarine

Petersburg showing the nuclear-powered submarine"Komsomolets which sank in the Norvegian Sea 07 April 1989

Despite the relatively high radiation levels, Heldal says they do not pose a large threat to fishing, sea life and the teams working on the investigation.

"This is, of course, a higher level than we would usually measure out at sea but the levels we have found now are not alarming", said expedition leader Hilde Elise Heldal of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, according to Reuters.

Just one week after a nuclear-powered Russian submarine caught fire, killing 14 sailors, researchers sent a remote submarine to collect samples around the sunken wreckage of another nuclear sub, which caught fire in 1989 leading to the deaths of 42 crew members. More than 100 metres long, the new addition to the Soviet fleet could dive much deeper than American submarines at the time.

Submarines were seen as playing a crucial role in countering the threat from U.S. aircraft carriers.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the sailors were killed by toxic fumes from the fire.

Remotely operated vehicle called Aegir 6000 approaches the Soviet nuclear submarine "Komsomolets", southwest of Bear Island in the Norwegian Arctic, Norway.

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A leaking radioactive sub certainly sounds scary, but this research suggests the wreck is not now endangering the Norwegian Sea and outlying areas. Norway's DSA and Institute of Marine Research (IMR) have carried out joint annual surveys for over 20 years.

It is the first time investigators have been able to "see" the wreck, despite having previously taken samples of seawater and sediment. They believe the source of the leak is a ventilation duct that's seeping a mysterious cloud into the water, although that's not been conclusively proven yet. The highest level researchers found was around 800Bq (Becquerel) per liter.

For reference, the acceptable amount of radiation in food is 600 Bq per kilogram, as established by the Norwegian government in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster.

Radioactivity levels "thin out" quickly at these depths and there are few fish in the area, she said. These samples will be analysed in the lab, so the current results should be considered preliminary until that's done. The submarine's name and mission were said to be "state secrets".

Some others survived, although there has been no confirmation of how many.

In addition to Heldal's description of the need to reassure Norwegian fishermen the local food chain has not been contaminated by radiation, the other obvious reason for intense interest in the latest survey of the Komsomolets is that Norway just assisted Russian Federation with a disturbingly similar accident, a fire that killed 14 sailors aboard a mysterious submarine Moscow has depicted as a deep-sea research vessel. It was one of the worst peacetime submarine accidents.

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