1995

The Komsomolets Disaster: Burial at Sea

By George Montgomery

Introduction

Some five years ago the Russian nuclear attack submarine Komsomolets sank in the Norwegian Sea. The event caused consternation in the Soviet Navy, high interest in NATO maritime and intelligence circles, and apprehension among environmentalists. This concern arose particularly in Norway, for the submarine’s broken hull holds two nuclear reactors and at least two torpedoes with nuclear warheads containing plutonium, one of the most toxic substances known to man. Since the sinking, Russian authorities have elicited to an unprecedented degree scientific assistance from other countries and used remote sensors and minisubmersibles to find Komsomolets, measure radiation leakage, and assess the stability of the wreck. Ironically, the architect of this instrument of war who designed it to hunt US and Norwegian ships is asking for and receiving assistance in surveying the submarine and assessing its stability from Komsomolets’ intended victims.