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Plan to recover nuclear reactors from submarine


By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW, AUG. 21. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ilya Klebanov, today said that after the bodies of the sailors aboard the crippled nuclear submarine Kursk had been retrieved, an attempt would be made to raise the vessel and recover its two nuclear reactors. Moscow would seek to mount an international effort to raise the 18,000- ton Kursk because of the magnitude of the job.

``No single country has the means of handling such an operation on its own,'' Mr. Klebanov told Russian television. He said it would take weeks just to draw up plans for the salvage operation.

Experts, however, warned that the submarine may have been damaged too badly and could break while being lifted to the surface. This could cause the two nuclear reactors aboard to crack, leading to radiation pollution. The Norwegian divers have so far found no sign of radiation leaks.

The cause of the explosion that ripped apart the submarine is still unclear, but Russian military sources have said the vessel may have collided with a foreign submarine.

The Interfax news agency cited unidentified sources as saying that a metal fragment resembling the fencing of a submarine conning tower had been found 330 metres away from the Kursk.

They said the fragment did not belong to the Kursk and was probably torn from the foreign ship, presumably British.

Earlier, Russian naval sources reported sighting a signal buoy floating in the area. The buoy, which later disappeared, was painted in white and green, colours used by the British and U.S. navies.

Anger, sorrow widespread

Reuters reports:

A wave of sorrow and anger spread through Severomorsk, home port of Russia's northern fleet, following reports that the Kursk's entire crew was dead.

``I don't want to believe it,'' said Ms. Yulia Kalmykova, a housewife. ``We hoped all these days and prayed. My relatives were not on board, but I feel as if my own children were. The past two nights I couldn't sleep, waiting for the morning news.''

All of Russia has been drawn into the disaster, but here in the north, where life depends on the navy and the sea, the pain and shock over the past weak has been palpable.

Many residents lashed out at officials, especially for refusing international help for nearly five days.

Mr. Alexander Bobrov, a navy mid-shipman, said the officials must be punished. ``We lost time. We shouldn't have waited a whole week deciding whether or not to accept Norwegian help,'' he said.

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