俄罗斯核潜艇墓地的可怕历史

The equivalent of six-and-a-half Hiroshimas lies just beneath the ocean's surface.

相当于六个半的广岛位于海洋表面之下。

In the icy waters north of Russia, discarded submarine nuclear reactors lie deteriorating on the ocean floor—some still fully fueled. It’s only a matter of time before sustained corrosion allows seawater to eat its way to the abandoned uranium, causing an uncontrolled release of radioactivity into the Arctic.

在俄罗斯北部冰冷的海水中,废弃的潜艇核反应堆堆积在海床上,不断恶化,有些仍然装满了燃料。持续的腐蚀会使海水侵蚀到被遗弃的铀,导致放射性物质无法控制地释放到北极,这只是时间问题。

For decades, the Soviet unx used the desolate Kara Sea as their dumping grounds for nuclear waste. Thousands of tons of nuclear material, equal to nearly six and a half times the radiation released at Hiroshima, went into the ocean. The underwater nuclear junkyard includes at least 14 unwanted reactors and an entire crippled submarine that the Soviets deemed proper decommissioning too dangerous and expensive. Today, this corner-cutting haunts the Russians. A rotting submarine reactor fed by an endless supply of ocean water might re-achieve criticality, belching out a boiling cloud of radioactivity that could infect local seafood populations, spoil bountiful fishing grounds, and contaminate a local oil-exploration frontier.

几十年来,苏联一直把荒凉的喀拉海作为核废料的倾倒地。近6.5倍的相当于广岛核泄漏量成千上万吨的核原料,倒入了海洋。这个水下核废料场包括至少14个不再需要的反应堆和一艘损坏的潜艇,苏联认为科学的退役过于危险和昂贵。今天,这种走捷径的行为困扰着俄罗斯人。一座腐朽的潜艇反应堆,在源源不断的海水支撑下,可能会重新达到临界状态,释放出沸腾的放射性云,这可能会感染当地的海产品种群,破坏丰富的渔场,并污染当地的石油勘探地区。


News outlets have found more dire terms to interpret the issue. The BBC raised concerns of a “nuclear chain reaction” in 2013, while The Guardian described the situation as “an environmental disaster waiting to happen.” Nearly everyone agrees that the Kara is on the verge of an uncontrolled nuclear event, but retrieving a string of long-lost nuclear time bombs is proving to be a daunting challenge.

新闻媒体已经找到了更可怕的术语来阐述这个问题。英国广播公司在2013年提出了对“核连锁反应”的担忧,而《卫报》则将这种情况描述为“一场即将发生的环境灾难”几乎所有人都认为,卡拉号即将发生一场无法控制的核事故,但找回一连串失踪已久的定时核弹却是一项艰巨的挑战。


At the same time, newer vessels incorporate the latest advances in power plant technology, metallurgy, hull shape, low-friction coatings, and propeller design, making for faster, quieter, deeper-diving, and more deadly undersea combat vessels. “Technology advances and proliferation will make the submarine's stealth, endurance, and mobility even more important attributes in the future,” says a 1998 Defense Science Board Task Force report. In combat, older subs won’t cut it.

与此同时,新型船舶融合了先进的动力技术、冶金、船体外形、低摩擦涂层和螺旋桨设计的最新进展,使得潜水更快、更安静、更深入、更致命的海底潜艇成为可能。1998年美国国防科学委员会特别工作组的一份报告指出: “技术的进步和扩散将使潜艇的隐形性、耐久性和机动性在未来变得更加重要。”。在战斗中,老式潜艇无法摆脱。


The Soviet unx’s first nuclear-powered submarine was the K-3, the first of the NATO code-named November class (the Soviets called them the “Whale class”). The K-3 prototype sailed for the first time using nuclear power on July 4, 1958. All but one of the 14 November class vessels cruised with dual VM-A water-cooled nuclear reactors, with the final sub, the experimental K-27, powered by a pair of VT-1 liquid metal-cooled reactors.

苏联的第一艘核子动力潜艇是 K-3,它是北约代号为 十一月 的第一艘潜艇(苏联人称它们为“鲸鱼级”)。1958年7月4日,K-3原型机首次使用核动力航行。11月14日,除了一艘以外,所有的船都配备了双 VM-A 水冷核反应堆,最后一艘潜艇是实验性的 K-27,由一对 VT-1液态金属冷却反应堆提供动力。


Eight hotel-class submarines, built to house and launch a complement of ballistic missiles, joined the Soviet fleet between 1959 and 1962. While Novembers were the USSR’s hunters, the Hotel-class subs were meant to stay undetected, using a pair of pressurized water-cooled reactors to cruise within striking distance of potential targets. Once enemy military bases or civilian population centers were in range, a Hotel class sub could unleash a barrage of R-13 or R-21 nuclear missiles, each of the latter with a blast yield of 800 kilotons. A strike of this magnitude over Midtown Manhattan would probably kill over two million people, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Fatalities would extend to parts of Queens, Brooklyn, and sections of New Jersey west of the Hudson.

1959年至1962年间,八艘“旅馆”级战略核潜艇加入了苏联舰队,它们的建造是作为可以容纳和发射弹道导弹的补充。虽然11月份级是苏联的猎人,但“旅馆”级潜艇意味着不会被发现,使用一对加压水冷反应堆在潜在目标的打击范围内巡航。一旦敌方军事基地或平民中心进入射程,一艘“旅馆”级潜艇就可以发射 R-13或 R-21核导弹,每一枚的爆炸当量可达800千吨。根据美国曼哈顿中城预防和控制中心的数据,如此大规模的袭击可能会造成超过200万人死亡。死亡人数将扩大到皇后区、布鲁克林区和哈德逊河以西新泽西州的部分地区。




Mothballed nuclear submarines pose the potential for disaster even before scrapping begins. In October of 1995, 12 decommissioned Soviet subs awaited disposal in Murmansk, each with fuel cells, reactors, and nuclear waste still aboard. When the cash-strapped Russian military didn’t pay the base’s electric bills for months, the local power company shut off power to the base, leaving the line of submarines at risk of meltdown. Military staffers had to persuade plant workers to restore power by threatening them at gunpoint.

被封存的核潜艇甚至在开始拆毁之前就构成了潜在的灾难。1995年10月,12艘退役的苏联潜艇在摩尔曼斯克等待处理,每艘潜艇上都装有燃料电池、反应堆和核废料。由于资金短缺的俄罗斯军方几个月没有支付基地的电费,当地的电力公司切断了基地的电力供应,使得潜艇线路面临熔毁的危险。军方工作人员不得不用枪威胁核电站工人,要求他们恢复电力。

The scrapping process starts with extracting the vessel’s spent nuclear fuel from the reactor core. The danger is immediate: In 1985, an explosion during the defueling of a Victor class submarine killed 10 workers and spewed radioactive material into the air and sea. Specially trained teams must separate the reactor fuel rods from the sub’s reactor core, then seal the rods in steel casks for transport and storage (at least, they seal the rods when adequate transport and storage is available—the Soviets had just five rail cars capable of safely transporting radioactive cargo, and their storage locations varied widely in size and suitability). Workers at the shipyard then remove salvageable equipment from the submarine and disassemble the vessel’s conventional and nuclear weapons systems. Crews must extract and isolate the nuclear warheads from the weapons before digging deeper into the launch compartment to scrap the missiles’ fuel systems and engines.

报废过程首先从反应堆堆芯中提取容器中的乏核燃料。危险迫在眉睫: 1985年,一艘维克多级潜艇卸燃料时发生爆炸,造成10名工人死亡,并将放射性物质喷到空气和海洋中。受过专门训练的团队必须将反应堆燃料棒与潜艇的反应堆核心分离开来,然后将燃料棒封存在运输和储存所需的钢桶中(至少,在有足够的运输和储存条件时,他们会封存燃料棒——苏联只有5辆能够安全运输放射性物质的铁路车,而且它们的储存地点在大小和适用性上差异很大)。然后,船厂工人从潜艇上卸下可抢救的设备,并拆卸该船的常规武器和核武器系统。工作人员必须将核弹头从武器中提取出来并隔离,然后深入发射舱,拆除导弹的燃料系统和引擎。

When it is time to dispose of the vessel’s reactors, crews cut vertical slices into the hull of the submarine and chop out the single or double reactor compartment along with an additional compartment fore and aft in a single huge cylinder-shaped chunk. Once sealed, the cylinder can float on its own for several months, even years, before it is lifted onto a barge and sent to a long-term storage facility.

当到了处理反应堆的时候,工作人员会在潜艇的外壳上切下垂直切片,将单个或双个反应堆舱连同前后一个巨大的圆柱形舱体一起切割出来。一旦密封,钢瓶可以自己漂浮几个月,甚至几年,然后再被提升到驳船上,送往长期储存设施。

But during the Cold War, nuclear storage in Soviet Russia usually meant a deep-sea dump job. At least 14 reactors from bygone vessels of the Northern Fleet were discarded into the Kara Sea. Sometimes, the Soviets skipped the de-fueling step beforehand, ditching the reactors with their highly radioactive fuel rods still intact.

但在冷战期间,苏联的核储存通常意味着在深海倾倒。至少有14个来自北方舰队旧船的反应堆被丢弃到喀拉海。有时候,苏联人会提前跳过卸燃料的步骤,直接抛弃高放射性燃料棒的反应堆。

According to the Bellona, the Northern Fleet also jettisoned 17,000 containers of hazardous nuclear material and deliberately sunk 19 vessels packed with radioactive waste, along with 735 contaminated pieces of heavy machinery. More low-level liquid waste was poured directly into the icy waters.

据贝罗纳报道,北方舰队还抛弃了17000个装有危险核材料的集装箱,并有意沉没了19艘装满放射性废料的船只,以及735件受到污染的重型机械。更多的低放射性液体废物被直接倒入冰冷的水中。

One of the most egregious and dangerous disposal capers was that of the K-27, the experimental November-class submarine with two liquid metal-cooled reactors. While at sea in 1968, one reactor aboard the K-27 suffered a leak and partial meltdown. Radiation exposure killed nine crewmen and sickened 83 more. The K-27 limped back to port, but after years of analysis, naval crews deemed it impossible to save. In 1981, tugs towed K-27 into the Kara and scuttled the hulk, sending everything—fuel, reactors, and other waste—to the bottom. Experts suggest safely sinking nuclear material to at least 3,000 meters. The K-27 lies at 50 meters.

其中一个最恶劣和危险的处置出现异常是 K-27,实验性的 N级核潜艇与双液态金属冷却反应堆。1968年在海上,K-27上的一个反应堆发生了泄漏和部分熔毁。辐射导致9名船员死亡,83人患病。K-27一瘸一拐地回到港口,但经过多年的分析,海军船员认为不可能挽救。1981年,拖船把 K-27拖进卡拉号,凿沉了这艘船,把所有的东西——燃料、反应堆和其他废物——都送到了海底。专家建议将核材料安全沉降至少3000米。但K-27位于50米处。

In 2012, a joint Norwegian/Russian inspection of the K-27 wreck revealed little deterioration—but naval experts think the sub might only stay intact until 2032.

2012年,挪威和俄罗斯对 K-27沉船的联合检查显示,它几乎没有老化,但海军专家认为,这艘潜艇可能只能完好无损地保持到2032年。

Another submarine is perhaps a bigger risk for a radioactive leak. K-159, a November class, suffered a radioactive discharge accident in 1965 but served until 1989. After languishing in storage for 14 years, a 2003 storm ripped K-159 from its pontoons during a transport operation, and the battered hulk plunged to the floor of the Barents Sea, killing nine crewmen. The wreck lies at a depth of around 250 meters, most likely with its fueled and unsealed reactors open to the elements.

另一艘潜艇也可能会有更大的放射性泄漏风险。11月份级的 K-159级,在1965年遭受了放射性物质泄漏事故,但一直服役到1989年。2003年的一场暴风雨在一次运输行动中将 K-159号船从浮筒上刮了下来,这艘破旧的船体跌落到了巴伦支海的地面上,造成9名船员死亡。沉船位于250米左右的深度,很可能是燃料反应堆和未密封反应堆已暴露。

Russia has announced plans to raise the K-27, the K-159, and four other dangerous reactor compartments discarded in the Arctic. As of March 2020, Russian authorities estimate the cost of the recovery effort will be approximately $330 million.

俄罗斯已经宣布了提取 K-27、 K-159和其他四个在北极丢弃的危险反应堆舱的计划。截至2020年3月,俄罗斯当局估计回收工作的费用约为3.3亿美元。

The first target is K-159. But lifting the sunken sub back to the surface will take a specially built recovery vessel, one that does not yet exist. Design and construction of that ship is slated to begin in 2021, to be finished by the end of 2026. Now, in order to avoid an underwater Chernobyl, the Russians are beginning a terrifying race against the relentless progression of decay.

第一个目标是 K-159。但是将沉没的潜艇打捞回水面需要一艘专门建造的回收船,这艘船目前还不存在。该船的设计和建造计划于2021年开始,2026年底完成。现在,为了避免水下的切尔诺贝利,俄罗斯人开始了一场可怕的竞赛,对抗不断恶化的腐朽。