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Experts complete survey of Russian sunken submarine

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MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - Russian and foreign experts have finished monitoring radiation levels at the site of a 2003 incident involving a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, the Russian Northern Fleet press service said Monday.

The K-159, a November class nuclear submarine with 800 kilograms (about 1,700 pounds) of spent nuclear fuel onboard, sank in 2003 while being towed to Polyarny, in northwest Russia, for decommissioning. Nine members of the 10-man crew died.

The radiation levels, according to preliminary monitoring results, are normal and pose no threat to the environment, the press service said.

Vladimir Vysotsky, the commander of the Northern Fleet, said a decision on whether to raise the submarine will be made after six weeks or two months, when the monitoring data has been completely studied and analyzed.

Subject to technical feasibility, Russia has committed itself to recovering the submarine and safely disposing of its reactors as part of an international agreement set up to assist with the safe disposal of Russian nuclear waste material.

The operation is being carried out under a joint project developed by Russia, Britain, the U.S. and Norway within the framework of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation agreement (AMEC), signed in September 1996.

The Russian Navy has been hit by several accidents involving submarines. The worst of these occurred August 12, 2000, when the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank following an onboard torpedo explosion, killing all 118 crewmembers.

In August 2005, the Priz AS-28 mini-sub with seven submariners onboard became entangled in a fishing net at a depth of about 190 meters (about 620 feet) in the Berezovaya Bay in the Bering Sea.

A rescue mission was successfully mounted after three days with the help of the British Scorpio 45, an unmanned deepsea rescue vehicle.

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