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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Should the Kursk be raised?

Russia says it hopes to raise the wreck of the nuclear submarine, Kursk, from the bottom of the Barents Sea before the end of September.

The vessel sank in August 2000 after a mysterious explosion and all 118 crew were killed.

But it will be a costly and complicated salvage operation. The mission is expected to take three months, starting in mid-June, and could cost in excess of $100m.

There is also the risk that the submarine could be further damaged and leak radioactive material into the sea.

Is this a risk that should be taken? Is the operation too expensive to be considered?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Should it be raised? Without question, at least the sections of the submarine which contain radioactive material (wherever that may be) should be raised, and made safe. The sailors should be left where they are, as they have already been traumatised enough. Will it be raised? There isn't enough money in the world to convince the Russian military to bring their most sensitive pieces of military hardware within the grasp of other countries. I fear that in a few years time when it starts leaking, and it gets into the food chain, they will still be as unrepentant....
Alex, England

A nuclear submarine sitting on the seabed for eternity... spells disaster! I believe we should put the brakes on nuclear power and weaponry because no one has yet devised a way to safely dispose of the waste products. Russia, and any other nation which has interest in nuclear power and nuclear weaponry, should have the capabilities to safely dispose of and clean up their mess before they begin the whole process. It would be an even greater tragedy if they assumed the 'out of sight, out of mind' frame of mind and left the wreckage to 'ferment'. The families who lost their loved ones need answers, and the seamen deserve a more appropriate resting place.
Frank, Australia

Nowadays the Kursk is a bomb of delayed-action. Definitely the dangerous part should be raised, but do not break the rest of lost sailors.
Bakhtiyer, Uzbekistan

The Kursk should be left where she lies. It is part of the traditions of the sea to leave ships alone, as they are sailors' graves. These sailors died doing their duty to Mother Russia. I wonder if we in Britain would remember and honour our sailors if an RN submarine were to sink in the same manner the Russian one did. I doubt it.
Graeme, Britain


I believe the Russians most likely already know what sank the boat

I.Turzanski, Netherlands
We may never know with a 100% certainty what sank the Kursk, as the Russians are first going to have the bow section (where the explosion occurred) cut off and left behind on the seabed before they try to raise the rest. It has not yet been decided if it is worth the effort to go back a pick up the bow section.

From all the reading I have done, it seems that the Russians are not very keen on having it lifted. I believe the Russians most likely already know what sank the boat, as they will have examined the video footage taken by the robot cameras and also interrogated the divers who recovered the bodies. If it was an internal explosion that ripped a hole in the double hull, then the plates should be bent outwards. If it was a collision, as the Russian top brass keep claiming, then the plates should have an inward-facing inclination.
I.Turzanski, Netherlands

The Kursk should be raised to establish the cause of the mishap and to bring closure to the families of those who sailed. To date Russia refuses to acknowledge the view that a torpedo malfunction was the cause of the disaster. The raising of the Kursk will confirm or deny that. I am uncomfortable with the fact that a nuclear reactor is sitting at the ocean bottom and will not contaminate indefinitely.
Jayant Mehta, USA

The Kursk must be raised at least to make sure that future Russian generations will not have a burden of raising it. This time will come anyway, so better to do it now. The sailors must be properly buried - it is time to become more civilised.
Dilshod, Uzbekistan/UK

The brave sailors of the Kursk died in the performance of their duties. Burial at sea with your ship is not a dishonourable end for a naval sailor. Let them lie where they are.
Tim, UK


It will give a chance for the families of the dead seamen to give them a proper burial

Daniel McDermott, England
The Kursk should be raised as it will give a chance for the families of the dead seamen to give them a proper burial instead of leaving them in the cold dark water.
Daniel McDermott, England

I doubt very much whether the decision to raise the submarine has anything to do with giving those who perished a proper funeral. The one and only reason to raise it should be due to radioactive contamination concerns. As for establishing once and for all the real cause of the accident, I doubt whether a visual inspection on the surface will change any minds. From all accounts, the front of the sub was devastated. Those Russian officials who still want to perpetuate the collision or old mine theory will still stand their ground. Just like the Egypt Air disaster, it doesn't matter what the evidence shows; these people have their interests to protect.
Neal, USA/UK

The fact almost never mentioned is that the Kursk had on board nuclear-tipped warheads and torpedoes, which Command of the Northern Fleet desperately tried to deny. It is them that cause more danger than the plutonium on the submarine's reactor.
Mirek Kondracki, U.S.


There is no ship in existence which can raise the Kursk to the surface

K.S. Barnes, USA
There is no ship in existence which can raise the Kursk to the surface. The Kursk weighs over 5000 tons. The USA once attempted to raise a Russian submarine with the Glomar Explorer. The attempt failed. There is simply no technology at present which can safely snatch 5000 tons of waterlogged steel from the ocean floor.
K.S. Barnes, USA

Raising the Kursk submarine is a bad idea for many reasons. It is a very risky operation that could ultimately see salvage workers and the environment in the Barents Sea area destroyed. It will cost a backbreaking amount of money, for an ailing Russian economy, that could better use this money to keep accidents such as the K-141 disaster from occurring again. Many of the families who lost their loved ones on August 12, 2000, wish their men to remain buried at sea. It would be heartbreaking to see them further upset by an already extremely painful incident.

Furthermore, the Russians will probably omit the infamous torpedo room compartment from this recovery mission. Without compartment I, it is unlikely that new answers can be provided as to what really caused this accident in the first place.
Jared Smith, Canada

Whilst it was a tragic incident, which left many questions unanswered, is it really our place to make decisions for the Russians? They've had people in space and have the technological know-how to do many things which the UK can't. Let them decide for themselves. How would we appreciate it if the Russians told us how to solve the foot-and-mouth crisis?
Matt, UK


The sea is a very fitting place, as a grave, for a sailor

John Butt, Ex Royal Naval Senior Rate, UK
The Kursk should be raised in order to discover the full circumstances to this disaster. I must however disagree as to raising it in order to recover the bodies. The sea is a very fitting place, as a grave, for a sailor.
John Butt, Ex Royal Naval Senior Rate, UK

Given it will only become more dangerous with time due to corrosion, I think there is a duty to remove this dangerous wreck from the sea (along with several others) as soon as possible. It should be done using the combined expertise of joint international effort.
Richard G, UK


The men should stay buried at sea

Patrick, UK
I feel the submarine should be made safe by removing all of the radioactive material, but the men should stay buried at sea as befits naval personnel who die in service.
Patrick, UK

The Kursk should be raised if Russians want to keep their dignity and reputation. Those servicemen who died should be given patriotic burial by the Russians. These are men and women who died in the line of duty for the safety of the rest of Russia.
John Mashaka, United States

As an ex-submariner, I think the sea makes an appropriate burial location for seamen whose ships sink beneath them. If the concern is for the radioactivity in the reactor, then perhaps other nuclear submarines which have sunk, including the USS Threasher and USS Scorpion, should be considered.
Phil, United States

Has anyone asked the kin of the victims? If it is their wish, raise the Kursk and do it now while the summer lasts.
Hazel, UK

Raising the Kursk may well be a costly and dangerous operation. The Kursk should be raised if only to secure the nuclear weapons on board and make sure the reactor core has not been damaged or exposed in any way. If left where she lies now, then the ecological consequences in years to come due to possible radioactive discharge into the sea will be catastrophic. It is time to put cost aside as a minor consideration and make sure we do the right thing.
Andrew Booth, UK


The only reason for disturbing the wreck is to prevent pollution

Michael, UK
Why do people feel that a sunken ship is so disrespectful as a final resting-place? It was good enough for Vikings, and burial at sea is a tradition amongst many naval forces. The only reason for disturbing the wreck is to prevent pollution, or to gain safety information which will prevent further tragedies. Dragging the bodies of professional sailors from the deep to bury on land is no sign of respect.
Michael, UK

These experimental supersonic torpedoes are why there was an explosion. And they are also why Russia was so reluctant to accept salvage and rescue assistance. The technology used to be top secret, as it will completely alter submarine warfare. It will also defeat Bush's missile shield system. But it's no longer secret. You can read about it in 'Scientific American.'
Loke de Nal, USA

If they raise the Kursk, what then? How will they dispose of the radioactive material? Simply raising it from the seabed is not enough... they need to have a long term plan for it. Plus the relatives need to have some physical, tangible monument to their lost men, somewhere to go and to mourn.
Appolonia, UK

If they don't raise it, they will have to commit to guarding the wreckage from foreign intelligence agencies forever. There's just too much to be learned from a modern Russian submarine in a few hundred feet of water. It has not been mentioned much in the media, but more than likely there are nuclear missiles on board with state-of-the-art guidance systems.
Brien Alkire, US


It is evident the Kursk should be raised

Michael Litvinov, Belgium
It is evident the Kursk should be raised. I have two reasons: 1 The nuclear stuff on board can destroy large parts of the sea forever (the former USSR and the US too are guilty in many other cases of the same and even larger danger.) 2 If the submarine is raised, it can be a symbol that shows not only the Russian people, but also the whole world, that such military material and messages are needless and a clear sign of the ultimate decadence of our highly technologised and industrialised world. Put that next to the fact that in 50 years we will succeed in destroying 50% of today's living species...)
Michael Litvinov, Belgium

As the wife of a serving submariner, this topic is uncomfortably close to home, and not an easy question to answer. The relevant authorities should work quickly to finally end the speculation about what will happen to the bodies of the submariners involved. The continuing media attention and uncertainty about what will happen is merely prolonging the agony of the families in Russia.
Suzie, UK

Russia should raise the Kursk for two reasons: 1) Eliminate the chance of a radioactive leakage that could be devastating for everybody 2) Give the Russian sailors back the dignity. However, I believe the operation should be carried out jointly by Russia and International authorities to avoid any further disasters.
Miltos Drandakis, UK


Their bodies are entitled to be returned to their families

Peter and Charlotte, New Zealand
The crewmembers of the Kursk were, like all other workers throughout the world, doing their best to perform their jobs properly and earn their wages accordingly. They didn't set out to be heroes and are the victims of just another workplace accident. Their bodies are therefore entitled to be returned to their families. Their employer should, like all other employers throughout the world, be obligated to spare no expense in doing so.
Peter and Charlotte, New Zealand

With its two 190MW reactors, the Kursk cannot stay at the seabed in one of the most important fishing areas in northern Europe. So far, no radioactive leakage is measured from the submarine. Considering lifting the Kursk we should hurry, but not rush. We can wait another year without risking radioactive leakages. Most likely, we cannot wait 10 years. Another important question to be answered is of course what to do with the submarine after it's lifted. The plan is to take it into the naval yard between Murmansk and Severomorsk. That does not solve the problem, only moves it. Therefore, the lifting plan should also involve a plan for a proper decommissioning of Kursk's two reactors.
Thomas Nilsen, Bellona, Norway

It will be hard, risky, dangerous and expensive... But necessary! The sea isn't a trashcan!
Lamoulie, France


It should be raised, preferably under international supervision

Brian W, UK
It should be raised, preferably under international supervision, in order to recover the nuclear material and to establish once and for all the cause of the sinking so that it is not repeated, maybe in a less remote location. Lessons could also be learned which will improve the chances of rescuing sailors trapped in similar circumstances in the future.
Brian W, U K

The Kursk must be raised. Think of the nuclear reactors that it has on board. Think of the problems there will be in the future about radioactivity. For next generation this will be a very big problem. We must think now.
Dario, Italy

It is my opinion that the feelings of the bereaved relatives must be taken into account and, if it is possible to remove only the radioactive material, then the bodies of the submariners should be left in peace. However, if this is not possible and the only safe method of removal is to raise the entire submarine, then the environmental considerations MUST take precedence.
L.R.Sharpe, Wales


It must be raised despite opposition from some of the families involved

Ned, UK
The Kursk is obviously an environmental disaster waiting to happen. It must be raised despite opposition from some of the families involved. Yet, after seeing botched Russian attempts to save the crew, I hope this venture will receive the full international backing it needs.
Ned , UK

I think by now Russia should be thinking of raising the Kursk from the ocean. This should also sound a warning to our leaders that a nation is supreme because of its men and not its military exploits.
Wiredu Edward Baffour, Ghana

I do not know (like most other people) what state the main body of the submarine is in, but I do realise that the easiest and least dangerous way to raise the reactor will probably be whilst it remains in the submarine. It sounds harsh, but I therefore feel that the bodies of the seamen are somewhat of a lesser priority than the making safe of a nuclear reactor that will stay radioactive for a number of centuries - long after the submarine itself will have rusted to pieces.
Nigel, France (Studying for a year)

The German battleship Blucher sunk in Oslofjord in World War II. Leaks of diesel 50 years later led to a substantial and dangerous operation to drain what remained. The Kursk is storing-up a similar, only worse, fate for future generations. Better to attempt the nuclear recovery now whilst information is available and the vessels structural integrity is intact. The needs of the relatives are also important. This may help them come to terms with their grief. Ideally the reactor and grave could be separated and the grave left alone, but this is unlikely. Better to plan how to deal with the bodies, and comfort the relatives as part of the operation.
D.Mather, UK


A submarine is not a suitable tomb for human bodies

John Grace, Canada
Definitely the Kursk should be raised. A submarine is not a suitable tomb for human bodies and it is the right of every human, military or civilian to a dignified resting place. These men gave their lives for their country, the least Russia can do is put their souls to rest.
John Grace, Canada

Ever since man ventured from the shore he has had to live with the possibility that he might never make it back. This is particularly true for the sailors in every navy in every period of time in the world's history. Submariners more than any other have had to live with the frightening reality that death under the waves would at best be quick and sudden, at the worst, slow and terrifying. These men knew the risks they had to take in order for them to do their jobs, and despite the dangers went to sea to serve their country. It is only fitting that men of this calibre, courage and tenacity should have the sea as their shroud. They are in gallant company. Do what can be done to contain any radioactivity, but let the men lie in peace.
Peter Moore, Canada

The Kursk must be raised. We cannot afford to leave nuclear reactors, along with their sordid contents, rotting on the bottom of the ocean ready to mutate the DNA of any creature that swims past. Look at all the deformities and disease caused by the Chernobyl incident. Being out of sight under the sea does not make these evil substances any less harmful!
F, Wiltshire, UK


The environmental considerations should come first

Charlie Richardson, England
The Kursk should definitely be raised. It's only in 100 metres of water which isn't very deep. The environmental considerations should come first - not to mention finding out exactly what happened. This accident could provide us with knowledge for the future, making a second accident an impossibility.
Charlie Richardson, England

While my heart goes out to the families of those poor sailors who died, I'm sure they would be the first to agree that there is no point in bringing up the bodies of their loved ones if others may die as a result. If, and only if, it is going to be 100% safe to bring up this submarine, should it be done. But the relatives of the dead should be asked first whether they want this to happen, or whether they would rather mourn them where they are.
Karen, UK

It depends purely on the dangers in involved in such an operation versus the dangers of doing nothing and letting the waste leak out and contaminate the sea. While I have sympathy for the families of those who lost their sons on the sub, I am sure every soldier that enters any kind of army is aware of the risk to life and limb this implies, and Putin was wise not to interrupt the rescue effort with his personal presence
Chris Cormier, Canada


The Kursk should be raised in order to find out how and why it sank

Keith, UK
The Kursk should be raised in order to find out how and why it sank. Both the recovery and subsequent investigations should be performed by a multinational team to prevent anybody from tampering with the evidence.
Keith, UK

It should be raised and the dead bodies given a decent mass grave and the Kursk taken as national monument.
Chitiyo Jacob, Zimbabwe

Recovery of the bodies of the crew is not a sufficient reason for raising the Kursk -- the hundreds of ships that went down during the Second World War (many of them in shallow water) were not raised for that purpose either, nor, more recently, was the ferry Estonia which sank in the Baltic. If recovery of the reactor separately is sufficient to prevent environmental harm and is possible, then that should certainly be done. On the other hand I hardly doubt that the Russian Navy already knows exactly what caused the Kursk to sink.
Peter, Netherlands


Governments should stop riding roughshod over the feelings of the people

Jon Turner, France (ex-UK)
There have been many comments about giving the dead a 'proper burial'. No one has actually asked the relatives of those that died if they want their bodies raised. Many will now have said their final goodbyes from a boat above a watery grave. If they want bodies brought up then fine, however, whilst the nuclear material needs to be rendered safe in some way, the families of those that died should have some say as to what happens to the bodies of their relatives. If this means that the whole submarine can be raised, great. If it means that the warheads and reactors only are salvaged, then that is what should be done.

Governments should stop riding roughshod over the feelings of the people and relatives of those that have lost their lives for their country. Equally, who are we in the Western world to tell the Russians what to do? they are a civilised country and can come to their own decisions as to what is the correct thing to do within their culture.
Jon Turner, France (ex-UK)

If it isn't raised, the environmental impact will be massive. However, to risk raising a hull weakened by two explosions could be even worse. The safest thing for all would be to make the reactors safe and no more.
James Canfer, England

Too many questions lie unanswered over the wreck of the Kursk. By raising the ship, perhaps we may be able to establish what happened to her and her crew, and how to prevent it happening again. When the complex issue of nuclear material lying on the ocean bed also comes into the equation, I don't think we can afford to let the Kursk lie. Any attempts to raise her should be executed and funded by the UN, so the truth is known and the cost not borne by a country with financial difficulties.
John Hutchence, England

The Kursk should be raised not only to clarify the circumstances of its sinking but also to give the seamen who died a befitting burial. The Russian nation should be given the opportunity to honour these men posthumously. They died a horrific death, they do not deserve eternal imprisonment on the seabed.
Daley, UK


What about the risks of leaving the submarine alone at the bottom of the sea?

Jordan Medeiros, USA
What about the risks of leaving the submarine alone at the bottom of the sea? As the submarine corrodes it will inevitably leak radioactive waste into the ocean. It will eventually have to be dealt with. Raising it now, while complicated, will be no less complicated when the sub needs to be removed in the future and is in worst condition than it is now.
Jordan Medeiros, USA

Our Russian allies should raise the Kursk, only if such action is the consensus of those families who lost loved ones.
Rahul Mahajan, India

The question is do we raise it now while the hull is in reasonable sound condition or wait until the radio activity leaks causing a barren sea in which nobody can work. An alternative may be to encapsulate it in concrete and wait for technology to advance. Either way at some point those reactors must be raised.
John, France

I think only the radioactive material and arms should be salvaged from the Kursk. No doubt this would cost a lot less than salvaging the whole submarine and it reduce the risk to near by Norway.
Alan Perry, England


It will force the Russian Navy to consider its own responsibility

Alex, UK
Despite a complete lack of evidence to the contrary, senior Russian Admirals continue to suggest that the Kursk may have sunk after collision with a Western vessel. If raising the Kursk for all to see finally lays that theory to rest, then it is definitely worth it -- because it will force the Russian Navy to consider its own responsibility in the accident and its aftermath.
Alex Duggan, UK

There would obviously be an ongoing risk of contamination in the future if the site weren't cleaned up now. Also it is necessary to find out exactly what happened in order to reduce the chance of another incident in the future. When there is an air crash at sea, all possible material is recovered for investigation. The same principle should be applied here.
Graeme, England


Respect for the young sailors

Wndy, UK
Where's the respect for those young sailors who were allowed to die in horrific conditions? Raise the Kursk.
Wendy, UK

The Kursk should be raised purely so the families of those who died can lay their dead to rest. The Russian government is obviously only thinking of the money.
Carrie, England

The Kursk submarine has a nuclear reactor on board. I presume that it is full of radioactive material, plutonium, which is a very dangerous substance. Has anybody considered the future costs and other implications of not raising the sub?
Peter Dziulka, UK

The Kursk cannot be left as it is anyway, because the radioactive material will be more dangerous in the long run. But wouldn't it be safer if those materials simply removed by divers?
Nick, UK

I can understand the victim's families wanting to have their loved ones returned to them for proper burial and since Russia is financing this venture I see nothing wrong in that. But I am a little wary in regards to whether or not this is a health hazard and if there are not sufficient guarantees it might be better to wait until an international body of experts examines the feasibility of such an undertaking first.
K, Canada


Leave it buried at sea!

Elaine, UK
NO NO NO - let these souls rest in peace. It will certainly not help the relatives to raise this wreck and it will not help the men who have the task either. I know someone who assisted in raising a sub nearly 20 years ago and he still has nightmares about it! All that and the cost and risk to more lives is just not worth it. Leave it buried at sea!!
Elaine, Dorset, UK

Only the nuclear part should be raised. The bodies should be left there and it should be marked as a sea grave. As long as we are respectful of the dead we can still give them some dignity and take away the nuclear waste.
James Clarke, UK

The Russians are the least qualified to raise the Kursk, or even to say if it should be.
T.J. Cassidy, U.S.A.

I have worked for the company that will raise the Kursk. If T.J. Cassidy knew anything about it, the raising companies are American and Dutch. The Norwegian government are the ones who have requested and partially funded the recovery.
Paul, UK

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14 May 01 | Europe
Analysis: Raising the Kursk


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