Releases from the sunken nuclear submarine Komsomolets

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Published 10.07.2019, updated 11.07.2019 09:50

Keywords: Radioactivity in the environment

Researchers have documented releases from the sunken Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets. The releases pose no risk to people or the marine environment

A number of seawater samples taken in and next to a ventilation pipe on Komsomolets have shown a level of radioactive caesium that is far higher than levels normally found in the Norwegian Sea. The highest level which has been measured in these seawater samples was 800 000 times higher than normal. Other samples of seawater collected from the same pipe during the expedition did not show any elevated levels.

Komsomolets 2019. Photo: The institute of Marine Research

Komsomolets 2019. Photo: The institute of Marine Research



Komsomolets sank on the 7th of April 1989 after a fire broke out on board. Seawater samples were specifically collected from this ventilation pipe as previous Russian expeditions to Komsomolets in the 1990s and 2007 had documented releases from the reactor at this location. The highest level researchers found was around 800 Bq per litre. Typical levels for seawater in the Norwegian Sea today are around 0.001 Bq per litre.

What we have found on this expedition will not have any impact for Norwegian fish and seafood. Levels of radioactivity in the Norwegian Sea are very low and the releases from Komsomolets are quickly diluted as the submarine lies at a depth of 1700 m.