Official points at torpedo as cause for nuclear sub's sinking

Thursday, June 20, 2002

MOSCOW -- A flawed torpedo sank the Kursk nuclear submarine, not a mine or collision, a top official said Wednesday as the inquiry into the disaster neared its conclusion.

The Kursk exploded and sank during maneuvers in August 2000, killing all 118 crew members on board. The bulk of the wreckage was lifted last October, allowing investigators to search for clues to the disaster.

Officials initially claimed that the Kursk's sinking might have been caused by a collision with a Western submarine or a World War II mine, then pointed to a flawed torpedo.

They are now looking at just one possible cause -- the explosion of a practice torpedo, said Ilya Klebanov, minister for industry, science and technologies who is in charge of the commission looking into the Kursk disaster.

"There is just one version left. We have dismissed other versions relating to a collision and a World War II mine," Klebanov told reporters in St. Petersburg in remarks carried by the Russian television.

Klebanov said Tuesday that the government commission will announce the final verdict June 29.

The navy has already ordered the type of torpedoes the Kursk carried removed from service, but the government has not offered a final conclusion about what caused the practice torpedo to explode, detonating other weapons in the bow.

The Russian navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov, said earlier this year that the navy had "placed unfounded trust" in the torpedo, which is propelled by highly volatile hydrogen peroxide.

A leak of hydrogen peroxide caused the 1955 sinking of the British submarine HMS Sidon, killing 13 men and prompting Britain and other nations to stop using the chemical. The Soviet and then Russian navies have used such torpedoes since 1957.

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