A new safety fear has been raised over the risky operation to retrieve the Kursk. The salvage operation in the Barents Sea may begin as soon as Friday 28th September. Russian Navy officials are concerned there is no certainty that the damaged and torpedo-laden bow of the vessel has been completely cut away from the rest of the hull by the salvage team. The fear is that if the heavy bow section is not completely separated from the main hull, it could also begin to rise when lifting begins. If it then breaks off and falls away, it could destabilise the gargantuan lifting operation.
Furthermore, any movement of the bow section risks disturbing any unexploded torpedoes .The bow section is thought to be the source of the explosions that sank the Kursk one year ago, with the loss of all 118 crew. Attempts to inspect whether the two sections are completely severed from top to bottom have been hampered because the Kursk is sitting in up to three metres of sediment.
The cutting was carried out using a thick, grit-edged cable that was pulled back and forth by two hydraulic cylinders, slicing through the hull like a cheese wire. Normally this is done from bottom to top, explains Lars Walder of Smit Internationale, the Dutch contractor that carried out the cutting. But this approach would result in a slight lifting of the submarine at the end of the cut. This is potentially dangerous with 24 long range missiles and two nuclear reactors still in the main hull section, as well as the torpedoes in the bow. So, Smit decided it was safer to cut from top to bottom.