Soviet submarine K-27
|Laid down:||15 June 1958|
|Launched:||1 April 1962|
|Commissioned:||30 October 1963|
|Fate:||The decommissioned submarine was scuttled in special training area in the Kara Sea near the northeastern coast of Novaya Zemlya on 6 September 1982 at Coordinates: |
|Class & type:||November class submarine|
|Displacement:||3,420 tons surface; 4,380 tons submerged|
|Length:||109.8 m (360 ft 3 in)|
|Beam:||8.3 m (27 ft 3 in)|
|Draft:||5.8 m (19 ft 0 in)|
|Propulsion:||two VT-1 nuclear reactors with lead-bismuth liquid-metal coolants, capable of producing about 73 megawatts apiece)|
|Speed:||14.7 knots surface; 30.2 knots submerged|
|Part of:||Soviet Northern Fleet: 17th submarine division|
The K-27 was the only submarine of Project 645 in the Soviet Navy. Project 645 was not assigned a NATO reporting name. That project produced one test model nuclear submarine, which incorporated a pair of experimental VT-1 nuclear reactors that used a liquid-metal coolant (Lead-bismuth eutectic), placed into the modified hull of a November class submarine (Project 627A).
Launch and operations
The keel of the K-27 was laid down on 15 June 1958 at Severodvinsk Shipyard No. 402. It was launched on 1 April 1962, and went into service as an experimental "attack submarine" on 30 October 1963. The K-27 was officially commissioned into the Soviet Northern Fleet on 7 September 1965. The K-27 was assigned to the 17th submarine division, headquartered at Gremikha).
The nuclear reactors of the K-27 were troublesome from their first criticality, but the K-27 was able to engage in test operations for about five years. On 24 May 1968, the power output of one of its reactors suddenly dropped sharply; radioactive gases were released into its engine room; and the radiation levels throughout the K-27 increased dangerously – by 1.5 grays per hour[clarification needed]. This radiation consisted mostly of gamma rays and thermal neutrons, with some alpha radiation and beta radiation in addition – generated by the released radioactive gasses such as xenon and krypton in its reactor compartment.
The training of the crew by the Soviet Navy had been inadequate, and these sailors did not recognize that their nuclear reactor had suffered from extensive fuel element failures. By the time they gave up their attempts to repair the reactor at sea, nine of the crewmen had accumulated fatal radioactive exposures.
About one-fifth of the reactor core had experienced inadequate cooling caused by uneven coolant flows. Hot spots in the reactor had ruptured, releasing nuclear fuel and nuclear fission products into the liquid-metal coolant, which circulated them throughout its reactor compartment.
The K-27 was laid up in Gremikha Bay starting on 20 June 1968. The cooling-off of the reactors and various experimental projects were carried out aboard the submarine through 1973. These included the successful restarting of the starboard reactor up to the 40% of maximal power production. Plans were considered to slice off the reactor compartment and replace it with a new one containing standard VM-A water-cooled reactors. The rebuilding or replacement of the nuclear reactor was considered to be too expensive, and also to be inappropriate because more modern nuclear submarines had already entered service in the Soviet Navy.
Scuttled in the Kara Sea
The K-27 was officially decommissioned on 1 February 1979 and its reactor compartment was filled with a special solidifying mixture of furfuryl alcohol and bitumen during the summer of 1981 to seal the compartment to avoid pollution of the ocean with radioactive products. This work was performed by the Severodvinsk shipyard No. 893 "Zvezdochka".
Then the K-27 was towed to a special training area in the eastern Kara Sea, and it was scuttled there on 6 September 1982 near the location 72°31'28"N., 55°30'09"E. off the northeastern coast of Novaya Zemlya (at Stepovoy Bay), in a fjord at a depth of just 33 meters (108 feet). It was necessary for a naval salvage tug to ram the stern of the K-27 to pierce it aft ballast tanks and sink it, because the K-27's bow had impacted the seafloor while its stern was still afloat. This scuttling was performed contrary  to the International Atomic Energy Agency's requirement that nuclear-powered submarines and surface ships must be scuttled at depths not less than 3,000 meters.
The last scientific expedition of the "Russian Ministry of Emergencies" to the Kara Sea examined the site of the scuttling in September 2006. Numerous samples of the seawater, the seafloor, and the sealife were gathered and the analyzed. The final report stated that the radiation levels of the area were stable.
Lessons in nuclear submarine construction and safety learned from Projekt 645 were applied in Projects 705 and 705K – that produced the Soviet Alfa class submarines. These were equipped with similar liquid-metal-cooled reactors.
In September 2012 it was reported that the sub needed to be lifted from its shallow bed in the Kara Sea. The vessel is a "nuclear time bomb", as the rusting and decaying vessel may be reaching a critical level leading to an "uncontrolled chain reaction". Although a joint Russian and Norwegian in 2012 did not find alarming levels of radioactivity in the water and soil surrounding the sub, an urgent consideration pertains to the dismantling of the nuclear reactors should the sub be raised. Because the reactors were cooled by liquid metals, the nuclear rods became fused with the coolant when the reactors were stopped and conventional methods cannot be used for disassembling the reactors. However, France's Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives designed and donated special equipment for a dedicated dry-dock (SD-10) in Gremikha, which was used to dismantle the Alfa-class submarines that shared this design feature. However, since the last Alfa reactor was dismantled in 2011, this equipment is at risk.
- K-27 Project 645. Deepstorm.ru. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
- Project 645 (NATO – "November"). Deepstorm.ru. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
- Атомные подводные лодки типа К-27 (Nuclear-powered Submarines of K-27 Type). Atrinaflot.narod.ru. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
- Книга памяти. Посвящается экипажу К-27 (Book of Remembrance. Dedicated to K-27 crew). Ruspodlodka.narod.ru. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
- Николаевич, Мазуренко Вячеслав (17 February 2009). К-27 "Жидкий Металл" (in Russian). Retrieved 12 August 2010. "Видимо, еще долго в нашем сознании, особенно тех, кто служил в Военно-морском Флоте на атомной подводной лодке К-27, 24 мая 1968г. будет связано с трагедией, которая разыгралась на ней в Баренцевом море."
- К-27 – навечно подводная лодка? (Is K-27 a submarine forever?) Rg.ru. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
- В Карском море пройдет обследование затонувших опасных подводных объектов (The Survey of Submerged Dangerous Objects in the Kara Sea)
- "'Nuclear time bomb:' Downed K-27 submarine must be lifted out". RT. September 13, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- "'Urgent to lift dumped K-27 nuclear sub'". Barents Observer. 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2012-08-02.