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Ctr. for Defense Information: Prospects for Successful Rescue of Crew Aboard Sunken Russian Sub 'Very Dim'Aired August 14, 2000 - 2:51 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Russian officials say a rescue effort is well under way to try to save the men on board that Russian nuclear submarine that is at the bottom of the Barents Sea and 350 feet of water.
We have with us from Washington, Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, retired admiral.
And we thank you for joining, sir. You were commander of a fleet that included submarines. And we want to talk about what looks like another submarine on the floor of an ocean on this planet, and what, perhaps, dangers that means. It apparently doesn't have nuclear weapons on board. Do you believe that the Russians don't have nuclear weapons on board this submarine ? And what about the two nuclear reactors on board?
REAR ADM. EUGENE CARROLL (RET.), CTR. FOR DEFENSE INFORMATION: That, of course, is the long-term environmental danger, is if they don't get that submarine off the floor, those reactors will, over time, erode, corrode and release highly radioactive material into the ocean.
ALLEN: And has there been any reports, studies from other submarines that have gone to the bottom of the floor -- there have been many -- about what damage can come from something like that?
CARROLL: I know of no official data which show the rate of radiation from reactors. As a matter of fact, the period of time is so short that those reactors may very well still be intact on the floor of the ocean. It's only over the decades that these things will assuredly disintegrate and release the radioactive material into the sea.
ALLEN: We have pictures. I'm told, Admiral, of this particular submarine -- file video. This is file video of the Kursk which is the submarine that we're talking about. Again, Russia saying that it had a serious collision. That's all they're saying. We don't know if it collided with what or if there are casualties on board.
We do, Admiral, there's been a long, long list of submarines, Russian submarines, that have gone down. 1970, U.S. Defense Department saying a Soviet sub disappeared off the Spanish coast; 1980, a fire aboard a nuclear submarine and on and on and on. And we're told, also, that this area of the Arctic Sea is pretty much a mess when it comes to nuclear waste. And it was also very popular as far as a test site for nuclear weapons. What can you tell us about that?
CARROLL: And that's very true. The Soviet Union had the largest submarine fleet in the world and we considered them a great danger to the United States. Now, they still have the largest submarine fleet, but most of it is just rusting away. It is not being properly maintained, people are not adequately trained to protect the submarines and the reactors. The state of training is deplorably low. They are probably as great a threat to our long-term wellbeing as they were when they were up and running.
The whole northern fleet is a disaster. The Center for Defense Information sent a camera crew there about a year and a half ago. We came back with evidence that is appalling of the deterioration of that whole fleet.
ALLEN: What did you see?
CARROLL: We saw ships that were just falling apart at the piers. They were not being maintained. At one point -- we didn't get to see this -- but at one point, the local power company cut off electricity to the naval base because they weren't paying their power bill. And when you leave nuclear reactors without any cooling for any length of time, you've got a major problem. It is really shocking the extent to which the Russian Navy has gone downhill. And it's impossible to say at this moment that the Kursk is a victim of this poor training, poor readiness, but it's a possibility that the collision occurred because the crew simply wasn't adequately trained.
ALLEN: Well, we do know, earlier this year, a nuclear sub surfaced during a storm in the Barents Sea because of the accidental opening of an air lock, and two seamen sent out to close that airlock were swept to their deaths. It is your hope, then, that if these men are rescued, that they'll still try and bring this sub up?
CARROLL: Oh, yes, if they can rescue the men, they can probably rescue or salvage the sub. However, the prospects for a successful rescue of the crew I think are very dim. You have to have exactly the right equipment, you have to have designed the systems to work perfectly under very difficult conditions. This submarine also is a double-hulled submarine. It has a pressure hull surrounded by a much larger hull which holds the missiles, and that apparently is what has ruptured and sunk the ship. They may not even be able to get at the pressure hull where the people are trapped.
ALLEN: It sounds like a terrible situation that is under way there.
CARROLL: I'm glad I'm not a Russian sailor these days.
ALLEN: I can understand after your report for us today. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing what you know, Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll.
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