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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).

K-27 submarine
Laid down: 15 June 1958[1]
Launched: 1 April 1962[1]
Commissioned: 30 October 1963[1]
Homeport: Gremikha[1]
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 72°31′28″N 55°30′09″E / 72.52444°N 55.50250°E / 72.52444; 55.50250Coordinates: 72°31′28″N 55°30′09″E / 72.52444°N 55.50250°E / 72.52444; 55.50250[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: November class submarine
Displacement: 3,420 tons surface; 4,380 tons submerged[2][3]
Length: 109.8 m (360 ft 3 in)[2][3]
Beam: 8.3 m (27 ft 3 in)[2][3]
Draft: 5.8 m (19 ft 0 in)[2][3]
Propulsion: two VT-1 nuclear reactors with lead-bismuth liquid-metal coolants, capable of producing about 73 megawatts apiece[2]
Speed: 14.7 knots surface; 30.2 knots submerged[2][3]
Range: unlimited
Service record
Part of: Soviet Northern Fleet: 17th submarine division[1]

Launch and operationsEdit

The keel of K-27 was laid down on 15 June 1958 at Severodvinsk Shipyard No. 402.[1] It was launched on 1 April 1962, and went into service as an experimental "attack submarine" on 30 October 1963.[1] K-27 was officially commissioned into the Soviet Northern Fleet on 7 September 1965. K-27 was assigned to the 17th submarine division, headquartered at Gremikha).[1]

The nuclear reactors of 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 her reactors suddenly dropped sharply; radioactive gases were released into her engine room; and the radiation levels throughout 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[citation needed] – generated by the released radioactive gasses such as xenon and krypton in her reactor compartment.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 her reactor compartment.[citation needed]

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 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.[3][4]

Scuttled in the Kara SeaEdit

K-27 was officially decommissioned on 1 February 1979[1] and her 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".[4]

Then 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.[5] 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 K-27 to pierce her aft ballast tanks and sink it, because K-27's bow had impacted the seafloor while her stern was still afloat. This scuttling was performed contrary[6] 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.[citation needed]

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 then analyzed. The final report stated that the radiation levels of the area were stable.[7]

Lessons in nuclear submarine construction and safety learned from Project 645 were applied in Projects 705 and 705K – that produced the Soviet Alfa class submarines. These were equipped with similar liquid-metal-cooled reactors.

Recovery plansEdit

In September 2012 it was reported that the submarine needed to be lifted from her shallow bed in the Kara Sea. The vessel was said to be a "nuclear time bomb", and that the rusting and decaying vessel may be reaching a critical level leading to an "uncontrolled chain reaction".[8] Although a joint Russian and Norwegian mission in 2012 did not find alarming levels of radioactivity in the water and soil surrounding the submarine, an urgent consideration pertains to the dismantling of the nuclear reactors should the submarine 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.[9]

In 2017, plans were again mooted to raise the submarine, by 2022. The Krylov State Research Center of St Petersburg announced that it was working on plans for a catamaran floating dock, capable of such heavy lifts from the seabed.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j K-27 Project 645. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Project 645 (NATO – "November"). Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Атомные подводные лодки типа К-27 (Nuclear-powered Submarines of K-27 Type). Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b Книга памяти. Посвящается экипажу К-27 (Book of Remembrance. Dedicated to K-27 crew) Archived 14 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ К-27 – навечно подводная лодка? (Is K-27 a submarine forever?) Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
  7. ^ В Карском море пройдет обследование затонувших опасных подводных объектов (The Survey of Submerged Dangerous Objects in the Kara Sea)
  8. ^ "'Nuclear time bomb:' Downed K-27 submarine must be lifted out". RT. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  9. ^ "'Urgent to lift dumped K-27 nuclear sub'". Barents Observer. 25 September 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  10. ^ Charles Digges (20 June 2017). "Russia hints at new plans to raise sunken nuclear subs by 2022". Bellona.