15 August 2011, 18:10

Russia plans new facilities in the Arctic

Russia plans new facilities in the Arctic

The High Arctic contains strategic shipping lanes and is also a treasure trove of natural resources. The Arctic Shelf alone holds an estimated one fourth of the world’s reserves of oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, developing these deposits often encounters problems posed by global warming.

The High Arctic contains strategic shipping lanes and is also a treasure trove of natural resources. The Arctic Shelf alone holds an estimated one fourth of the world’s reserves of oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, developing these deposits often encounters problems posed by global warming. The latter melts permafrost, leading to ruptures in onshore oil and gas pipelines, as they sink into soggy soil. Serious leaks may spring, resulting in explosions, fires and serious pollution of the natural environment. Accordingly, Russia is planning nine emergency response centres along its section of the Northeast Passage from Western Europe to East Asia. Three will be on the Far Eastern Chukotka Peninsula. The westernmost one will sit close to the southeastern coast of the Barents Sea.

We hear more from Dr Alexei Knizhnikov of the Worldwide Fund for Nature:

"Without such centres, any commercial operation in the Arctic carries great risks. These risks will be significantly reduced as soon as Russia installs a chain of such centres, stretched from Chukotka to the Barents Sea. These centres will serve to protect local people and the fragile Arctic environment."

Each centre will cost some 18 and a half million dollars. It will have rescue and firefighting equipment and expeditiously dispatch rescue and repair helicopters to trouble spots. The Emergency Ministry is already allotting land and buildings for these centres.

Another obstacle to Arctic development is freak weather. To forestall complications from it, the Russian Weather Service is increasing the number of its permanent observation stations in the Russian Arctic from 60 to 75, and the number of its automated observation posts, from 3 to 33. Some of these posts are buoys placed on seawater or ice within the economic zone of Russia.

In a recent interview, deputy head of the Russian Weather Service Dr Gennadi Yeliseyev also told the Voice of Russia about plans in space:

"Weather conditions across vast areas are best tracked from the orbit. Unfortunately, the equatorial geostationary orbit is not of much use for the Arctic. My service needs weather satellites placed in sufficiently high elliptical polar orbits. A constellation of such satellites would successfully track Arctic weather round the clock. The only problem in the way is funding."

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