Two years ago, the Russian government provided a tally: two submarines, 14 reactors — five of which contain spent nuclear fuel — 19 other vessels sunk with radioactive waste on board, and about 17,000 containers holding radioactive waste. The last known dumping occurred in 1993.
Of particular concern are the two submarines, the K-27, which was dumped into the Kara Sea in 1981, and the K-159, which sunk in 2003 into the Barents Sea, while being towed for dismantling. After an expedition to the K-159 last summer, Russian authorities concluded that there was no unusual radioactivity.
“There was no extra radiation from that submarine,” Nils Bohmer, a nuclear expert at the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental nonprofit, told VICE News. “But later the Russian authorities said that within 10 to 15 years, a decision had to be made whether or not the sub should be lifted.”