The K-278 Komsomolets was on its first operational patrol when the Soviet nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarine met its fiery demise in the Barents Sea on April 7, 1989, killing 42 crewmen.
Thirty years later, a Norwegian scientific expedition to the wreckage site 1.7 kilometers below the surface has confirmed that the Komsomolets continues to have a lasting environmental impact.
“We found levels of radioactive cesium…that were close to 1 million times higher than the levels we find in [uncontaminated] seawater,” Hilde Elise Heldal, a researcher from the Institute of Marine Research who participated in the July 7 mission, told RFE/RL by telephone.
The confirmation that the submarine is actively leaking radiation comes weeks after a fire aboard a top-secret Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea killed 14 sailors, making it the deadliest submarine incident to hit the Russian Navy since 2008 and raising alarm about Moscow’s transparency on the matter.
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