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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plan to Use Nuke Subs as Oil Tankers

OSLO, Norway -- A Russian proposal to turn aging nuclear submarines into underwater oil tankers sent a shiver through neighboring Norway on Wednesday amid fears of a double environmental disaster in its waters.

Northwestern Russia is home to the country's Northern Fleet, with scores of derelict nuclear submarines rusting in its harbors.

The same Barents Sea area, bordering Norway, is also rich in petroleum reserves.

Earlier this week, the governor of the Arkhangelsk region proposed refitting the submarines to use as underwater oil tankers, carrying oil beneath the nearly omnipresent ice pack.

"We see it as very realistic and economical to use nuclear submarines for oil and natural gas transport," Anatoly Jefremov was quoted as saying at a meeting of businessmen in the northern Norwegian town of Kirkenes on Monday.

Norwegian Thomas Nilsen, of the Barents Sea Council, was at the meeting and confirmed Jefremov's comments. He said Russia had considered the concept in the mid-1990s, but it was never implemented.

Nilsen, who spent 12 years as an expert on northwestern Russia's environmental problems for Bellona, a Norwegian environmental group, said the cost involved in retrofitting and updating the old nuclear-powered boats made it unlikely.

Nilsen said the United States studied the idea in the 1960s and dismissed it as too costly.

Jefremov said ways of converting old submarines to each carry 10,000 tons of oil under the polar ice pack were being studied, but offered no timeframe for the project.

According to Bellona, 71 derelict submarines are mothballed in Kola bays, their nuclear fuel still aboard.

Norway, a Nordic country of 4.5 million, has banned nuclear weapons and power plants on its own soil.

Norwegian Environment Minister Boerge Brende said he was concerned about the double threat to the country's long and ecologically fragile Arctic coastline if a nuclear-powered sub carrying oil had an accident.