An international team of divers and experts hope to resume efforts Monday to raise the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Kursk from the bottom of the Barents Sea. Bad weather forced a halt to operations on Saturday.
It is expected to take at least 12 hours to lift the hull of the 18,000 ton Kursk but that estimate assumes calm seas, conditions which become increasingly rare at this time of year. The operation was to have begun on September 15 but bad weather has caused repeated delays.
Steel cables attached to the hull will be connected to hydraulic jacks that have been fitted to a huge barge anchored above the submarine. Once it has been raised to the surface it will then be towed to the port of Murmansk.
Lifting the Kursk is expected to cost some $65 million. An equal amount of money will be necessary to dispose of the wreck. Russian officials hope that once the ship has been raised they will be able to find out what happened on that August day in 2000 when two explosions tore open its bow and sent all 118 crewmembers to their deaths.
The bodies of 12 Kursk crewmembers were recovered in separate operations last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to recover the ship and the remains of its crew. His decision to do so was initially welcomed by the families of those killed but now some relatives say they oppose the plan.
Once the hull is retrieved there will still be many problems to overcome. Nuclear fuel must be extracted from the ships two shut-down reactors. Experts say they are satisfied that the reactors themselves are intact but other sub-systems may have been damaged. If so that would present other problems. Then there is the arsenal of cruise missiles the ship carried. They must also be disposed of. Once those problems and more have been overcome, the hull will be stripped down completely, a process expected to take at least six months.