Russian tanker loaded with diesel fuel collides with Arctic ice floe | Alaska Dispatch

Diesel fuel spill in the Arctic. Arctic Council needs a stronger agreement address prevention of spills along with already agreed upon remedial measures. Alaska dispatch reporting on this spill – an excerpt:

“The 453-foot Russian-flagged tanker Nordvik is rated to travel in non-Arctic seas in thin ice, but collided with an ice floe in Matisen Straight, causing a hole that resulted in water ingress. The Northern Sea Route Administration had given the vessel permission to sail in the Kara Sea and the Laptev Sea, two of the most northern seas. There are as yet no reports of diesel fuel spills in the area, and the vessel was reportedly traveling toward Murmansk. 

A graphic of sea ice concentrations shows ice in that region, though the majority of the passage is shown to be ice-free. 

A Russian union spokesperson said the accident is an example of the need for more emergency response capacity in the region prior to allowing vessels to travel in the Arctic seas. 

“Yesterday’s accident was a direct threat to the lives of sailors and the ecology of the Arctic,” Aleksander Bodnya says to the union’s web site. “Vessels like that should not be sailing on NSR, simply because they are not capable of withstanding the ice conditions.” 

Alaska’s state officials responded with similar concern, saying the incident illustrates why Alaska and the United States need to continue to push an Arctic marine safety and life safety agenda. 

“We have an Arctic Council agreement signed this year to help each other in cleanup, but need more work in prevention,” said Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, one of the state officials who has been leading Arctic policy efforts, in an email.

Treadwell said one of the proposals from the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment includes a mandatory code defining what kind of ships can make these voyages. 

“Russia and other nation’s crude oil and product tankers now come through the Bering Strait, through waters that are a major food source for Alaskans and the world,” Treadwell said. “They should have contingency plans and the support of an oil spill response organization in case of a problem. That is not cheap, but we have to find a way to make it happen.” 

In 2012, 46 ships sailed the entire length from Europe to East Asia. In 2013, administrators of the Northern Sea Route had granted permission for more than 400 ships to sail.”

For full article go to:

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130913/russian-tanker-loaded-diesel-fuel-collides-arctic-ice-floe

Norway’s new Government drops Lofoten oil | Barentsobserver

Liberal party and Christian Democratic party join new government and agree on stopping oil drilling in the most sensitive parts of Norway. As you may expect, environmental groups are pleased with this agreement. The Barents Observer go on to say:

“The new government [of Norway] will not go on with any planning or drilling in the waters outside Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja, and will not open for drilling in the areas around Jan Mayen or close to the ice-edge in the High Arctic. 

The Arctic waters already opened for oil and gas planning and development in the southwestern and southeastern part of the Barents Sea will remain open for petroleum activity. Several discoveries of both oil and gas have been announced in these areas over the last two years. 

General Director of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, Gro Brækken, says the decision to stop any new impact assessment studies for oil and gas development in the northeastern Norwegian Sea is a democratic problem.

She sent out a press-release pointing to the fact that three out of four deputies in the new parliament is elected on a program that says yes to study the impact of oil activity in the waters outside Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja.

“It is a democratic problem that a clear majority in the parliament that supports such an impact assessment study again is overrun by a small minority. The representatives from the Christian Democratic and the Liberals, both parties without a single parliament member from Northern Norway, has got too big influence on this issue which has great importance for business development in this region,” says General Director Gro Brækken.”

http://barentsobserver.com/en/politics/2013/10/norways-new-government-drops-lofoten-oil-01-10

Ottawa’s Arctic port plan mired in delays – North – CBC News

More plans for development and remediation in Canadian Arctic. Here is press release from Canadian Press:

“One of the crown jewels in the federal government’s Arctic strategy is mired in a slow-moving environmental clean-up and the threat of legal action, federal documents reveal.

The deep-water port at Nanisivik, Nunavut, remains under the control the federal fisheries department six years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the creation of a naval refuelling station high in the northern archipelago.

Environmental remediation of the site is necessary before the Department of National Defence can take possession.

But a private company which operated a now-defunct zinc mine in the region has yet to complete a clean-up of a fuel tank farm, despite four years of pressure from the military.

A 2009 briefing note to former defence minister Peter MacKay, obtained under access-to-information legislation, warned that delays by the company were a major risk to the project schedule and cost.

The cost has already swelled to $116 million from the original $100 million estimate.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/story/2013/09/01/north-arctic-harper.html

Arctic Ice Ponds normal summer melt | Alaska Dispatch

Not debunking climate change but explanation necessary as far as ice ponds normal melt. Photo from K. Hansen.

image

“The formation of melt ponds has always been a key feature of the summer season on sea ice,” the statement said, before going into a lengthy explainer about how such ponds come to form, before getting down to brass tacks and addressing the question: Was the pond caused by global warming?

“No, not specifically,” the researchers wrote. “These melt ponds are a normal part of the seasonal cycle of the sea ice. With respect to global warming, we are more concerned when we see warm air temperatures in the winter that inhibit ice growth and the appearance of heat in the ocean that would melt the bottom surface of the ice.”

The recent hullabaloo over the North Pole melt pond is similar to what happened back in July when bloggers and other media latched onto a near-cloudless satellite image of Alaska, a once-in-a-blue-moon photograph taken during this summer’s record-breaking heat wave. In that case, as well, pundits ignored long-term trends and instead relied on a single poignant image to make their point.

Meanwhile NOAA’s 2012 “State of the Climate” report, released this week, highlighted another record-breaking instance in the history of the Arctic — last year’s low ice extent, which surpassed the previous record with weeks left in the summer melting season. Global surface temperatures in 2012 were about 0.3-degrees above the 1981-2010 average, making 2012 among the 10 hottest on record globally.

Meanwhile, last year’s Arctic sea ice extent joined other recent years as among the most dismal. Oddly enough, the one region not suffering from extended ice decline is the Bering Sea in winter, which has frozen fast and caused problems for industry vessels and subsistence hunters into the summer months.

The Arctic ice pack this year so far is looking more promising, with the National Snow and Ice Data Center reporting that melt was a little behind the record-shattering 2012 rate, at least in early July. The center also warned, though, that July is the most aggressive month in terms of ice melt, and air temperatures in the first half of July were 2-9 degrees above normal across much of the Arctic.

Curiously enough, despite that epic heat wave around Alaska, including one of the warmest months on record for Barrow, America’s northernmost city, the ice in the waters surrounding Alaska remained the most stubborn in the entire Arctic Ocean.

Still, despite the often-confusing information, it’s apparent that the Earth as a whole is gradually growing warmer, and the effects are particularly pronounced in the Arctic. The snow-and-ice center recently began using a new, updated average by which it will measure sea ice extent, since the years since the millennium have see an such a steep decline in overall levels, skewing the numbers lower, creating a “new normal.”

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130808/arctic-ice-melting-rapidly-some-signs-are-false-alarms

Maritime Nuclear Plant launching 2016 | Environment News Service

Past maritime accidents in 1957 and 1967 may make many nervous about the launching of the Russian Federation’s floating nuclear plant. Many other countries are interested in this technology but is the Arctic environment ready for another accident? However, the vessel is supposedly tsumani proof and based on icebreaker vessels accustom to Arctic conditions. Here is excerpt from Environmental News Service report:

“Mass production of similar floating nuclear power plants is scheduled for the near future.

The “Academician Lomonosov’s” technology is based on the USSR’s construction of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

The Russian media is speculating that the floating nuclear power plants will first be used in remote areas of the northeastern Arctic Russia and the Far East, as these regions currently suffer from a lack of energy, slowing their development.

Each 21,000 ton vessel will have two “modified KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors” that will provide up to 70 megawatts of electricity or 300 megawatts of heat, sufficient for a city with a population of 200,000 people.

Additionally, the floating nuclear power plants can provide water desalination services capable of supplying up to 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day.

Those with historical memories will recall accidents with a Soviet-era nuclear icebreaker that released radioactivity into the environment.

Launched in 1957, the “Lenin,” the USSR’s first nuclear powered icebreaker, was powered by three OK-150 reactors. In February 1965, there was a loss of coolant incident, and some of the fuel elements melted or deformed inside reactor number two. The debris was removed and stored for two years, and subsequently dumped in Tsivolki Bay near Novaia Zemlia.

The second accident was a cooling system leak, which occurred in 1967, shortly after refueling.

Not a reassuring development for the Soviet Arctic environment.

“Academician Lomonosov’s” keel was laid in April 2007 at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk on the White Sea, but the project was later transferred to the Baltiskii Zavod shipyard.

The 21,500 ton hull of the “Academician Lomonosov” was launched in 2010, although construction work was frozen in mid-2011 because of bankruptcy proceedings against the shipyard.

The company was acquired by state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation and Rosenergoatom, thenuclear power station operations subsidiary of Atomenergoprom, a holding company for all Russian civil nuclear industry, signed a new contract with the Baltiskii Zavod shipyard for completion of the “Academician Lomonosov.”

The vessel is equipped with two modified KLT-40 reactors but has no engines, so it needs to be towed into place. The floating nuclear power stations are to be mass-built at shipbuilding facilities and then towed to a destination point in coastal waters near a city, town or industrial enterprise

The Baltiskii Zavod shipyard stresses that The “Academician Lomonosov” and its successors are all designed with a safety margin exceeding all possible threats, which makes their nuclear reactors invulnerable to tsunamis and other natural disasters. They shipyard claims the ships meet all the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and do not pose a threat to the environment.

The shipyard states that 15 nations, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Algeria, Namibia and Argentina have expressed interest in buying floating nuclear power plants.

The “Academician Lomonosov” will be sent to Vilyuchinsk, Kamchatka for operational testing. Rosatom then aims to construct seven more FNPPs by 2015, with four of them likely to be located on the northern coast of Siberia’s Yakutia.

Other Arctic areas provisionally scheduled to receive FNPPs include port cities along the Russian Federation’s arctic coastal Northern Sea Route and Pevek in Chukotka.

An added benefit of the FNPP as envisaged in Moscow is that the provision of nuclear power to the Arctic and Far East will free up more oil and natural gas for foreign export, allowing the Russian Federation to generate additional hard currency.”

http://ens-newswire.com/2013/07/17/russia-builds-floating-nuclear-power-plants/

Say camels and we think of desert, now think Arctic

When the topic of camels come up in polite conversation we generally think of hot desert places but this recent fossilized find of a giant camel in the High Arctic of Canada suggests that these noble beasts were quite adept to colder clines of the Northern Territories.
Excerpt from Rebecca Morelle reporting for BBC World News:

Scientists have unearthed the fossilised remains of a giant species of camel in Canada’s High Arctic. An analysis of protein found in the bones has revealed that this creature, which lived about 3.5 million years ago, is an ancestor of today’s species. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications. Dr Mike Buckley, an author of the paper from the University of Manchester, said: “What’s interesting about this story is the location: this is the northernmost evidence of camels.”

Raising Sunk Subs in Kara Sea in Arctic

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21119774 Can Russia raise a K27 Submarine to extract intact uranium? 21.5bn tonnes of oil and gas reserves expected to be here and Russia doesn’t want any radioactive hazards to get in the way of contracting. Our greedy grab for oil again wins out over pristine Arctic water. By raising sunk submarines, radioactive hazardous materials containment may be breached and seep into our oceans contaminating sea life and surrounding coastlines and fisheries.