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Kursk Wreckage Expected to be Scrapped Within Months - 2001-11-24

The wreck of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk is expected to be ready for scrapping within four months. The sub has been in dry dock in northern Russia since it was lifted from the sea floor early last month.

Russian officials say the submarine's nuclear reactor will be removed in an operation led by the nation's Atomic Energy Ministry. After that, the Kursk will be sealed up and shifted to a special facility where the final dismantling process will take place.

Forensic experts have already removed about 60 bodies of crewmembers who died when two explosions caused the Kursk to sink almost 16 months ago.

Most of the remains have been returned to their home regions all across Russia for burial. In all, 118 men on board were killed in one of the worst naval disasters in Russia's history.

Navy salvage teams also removed most of the sub's 23 supersonic missiles in a delicate and dangerous operation. Several of the missiles were so badly damaged that they will be scrapped along with the rest of the 18,000 ton sub.

Meanwhile, the debate continues over what caused the initial explosion in the sub's torpedo bay. That, in turn, led to a second, much larger blast which sank the vessel.

Officials say some fragments from the front section, which contained the torpedo bay, are now being analyzed. However, most of the front section remains on the ocean floor after it was sawed off for safety reasons before the lifting operation began. The navy plans to retrieve what's left of that section next summer, to hunt for more clues about what happened.

Some senior Navy officers insist the Kursk collided with another submarine. But most independent experts believe a faulty torpedo most likely misfired due to the highly flammable hydrogen peroxide gas that is used as a propellant.