A Soviet nuclear submarine which sank off Norway in 1989 is still emitting radiation, researchers said on Wednesday following an expedition that used a remotely controlled vehicle for the first time.
The wreck of the Komsomolets lies on the bottom of the Norwegian Sea at a depth of about 1 700 metres.
Authorities have conducted yearly expeditions to monitor radiation levels since the 1990s, but 2019’s inspection was the first one to use a remotely operated vehicle called Aegir6000 to film the wreckage and take samples which will be further analysed.
The scientific mission’s samples show levels of radioactivity at the site up to 800 000 higher than normal, the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority said in a statement.
“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.
Radioactivity levels “thin out” quickly at these depths and there are few fish in the area, she said.
The Komsomolets sank on 7 April 1989, after a fire broke out on board; killing 42 crew. On 1 July, 14 Russian sailors were killed aboard a nuclear submarine operating in the Arctic.