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Russia to Start Dismantling Kursk

March 4, 2002

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MOSCOW (AP) _ The carcass of the Kursk nuclear submarine will be taken to a dismantling plant next month and will be scrapped by the end of the year, shipyard officials said Monday.

Prosecutors had said the Kursk would be sent to the Nerpa plant in the northern Murmansk region for dismantling only after investigations inside its hull are complete. Top officials said last month the probe was over, but that it had not determined for certain what prompted the explosions that sent the Kursk to the Barents Sea floor in August 2000, killing all 118 men aboard.

Capt. Vadim Churikov, director of the Defense Ministry’s 82nd ship repair plant, was quoted by the Interfax-Military News Agency as saying that the Kursk would be removed from the floating dock in the northern city of Roslyakovo in April and moved to the Nerpa plant.

Nerpa director Pavel Steblin said the painstaking processing of taking apart one of Russia’s most modern submarines would be finished by the end of the year.

He was quoted as saying that the first items of business would be cutting out the Kursk’s nuclear reactor and six Granit cruise missiles that remain embedded in the wreck.

Experts working in Roslyakovo have removed 16 missiles from the Kursk but the others were too difficult to extract without disassembling large parts of the submarine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov examined the Kursk on a tour of the region Monday.

Officials have said a practice torpedo set off two explosions on the Kursk, but what prompted the incident remains unclear. Russia’s navy chief has said it was likely an internal torpedo malfunction, and the country’s top prosecutor ruled out speculation that it was caused by a collision with a foreign submarine, but both have refused to issue a final conclusion.

The Kursk’s fore section, which may contain additional clues to the disaster, was sawed off and left on the sea bottom when the rest of the wreck was lifted last October. The navy is planning to raise some of the bow’s fragments in late May.

Russia has 126 other decommissioned nuclear submarines waiting to be scrapped around the country because of funding shortages, according to the government. Many still have nuclear fuel in their reactors, which has alarmed environmental groups.

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