Russia pledges to raise Kursk
MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia has confirmed plans to salvage the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk from the Barents Sea and return it to dock.
The vessel, which plunged to the bottom of the Barents Sea last year killing all 118 submariners on board, is scheduled to be lifted this summer, Reuters reported.
The first stage is due to begin in mid-July and be completed around September 10, and a second operation involving the actual lifting of the submarine, is scheduled for between September 10-20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to recover the bodies of those who died from the Kursk, which was ripped apart by two unexplained explosions on August 18 last year.
Moscow recovered the bodies of 12 victims last year and has vowed to lift the submarine to prevent possible damage to the environment. Officials also hope to determine the cause of the disaster after raising the submarine.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov -- who is in charge of organising the Kursk salvage effort -- said the Dutch heavy transport firm Mammoet has won the contract to raise the Kursk.
Mammoet pledged to charge Russia a significantly lower amount than their rivals to lift the nuclear-powered submarine and said it would get the job done this year, Klebanov said.
A consortium comprising Dutch firms Smit Internationale and Heerema and U.S. company Halliburton had offered to do the job in 2002, saying the group could not safely raise the Kursk this year.
Klebanov said the decision to go with Mammoet was in no way linked to finances. He also said Mammoet had agreed not to announce the size of the contract or details of the technology divers would use.
Klebanov chairs a government commission studying the three main theories for the cause of the Kursk disaster: a crash with a foreign submarine, a collision with a World War II-era mine or the detonation of a faulty torpedo.
Klebanov dismissed warnings that autumn storms in the Barents Sea might derail the effort to raise the vessel.
"Weather records in the area show that there are on average 18 favourable days in August and 16 days in September," he told reporters.
Divers are scheduled to start work in mid-July -- cutting the badly damaged front part of the submarine from the rest of its hull. Officials said they would decide later what to do with the segment that contained torpedoes and was shattered by powerful explosions.
Many experts opposed raising the Kursk, citing the project's high cost and the danger that the sub's two nuclear reactors might break open and release radiation.
The reactors were automatically shut down when the vessel sank, and regular monitoring has shown no radiation leak.
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