Staunton, May 30 – Global warming has made it possible for ships to pass along the Northern Sea Route ever more months of the year with less assistance from icebreakers, but the route will not become truly a year around one until Russia constructs railways and highways paralleling it, Taisiya Shepitko says.
The director of the Institute for Road Construction at Russia’s Transportation University says that progress in that direction is being made with her institution contributing innovative technologies including the laying of insulation layers on top of permafrost soil (vtimes.io/2021/05/29/kak-vizhat-neft-izo-lda-po-nauchnomu-a5305).
These layers prevent the transmission of heat into the ground and the melting of the permafrost in ways that lead to subsidence and the collapse of railways, highways and airport runways that happens when the ground begins to melt, Shepitko says. In the use of such technology, Russia in general and her university are world leaders.
“The Northern Sea Route is the Arctic’s transportation artery, but it has one major drawback: ports that freeze in the winter. The Russian icebreaker fleet, of course, is the largest in the world, but scholars have now come up with some unexpected ideas” about the ports this fleet has to clear each year. That would involve building undersea tunnels from the ports to beyond the ice near the shore.
That would free up icebreakers for use along the route, but it will be a long time before such “an innovation” can be put in place, Shepitko continues.
Her university has long been involved in helping to plan for transportation projects in the North. It helped build a railway to gas fields and now is working on the revival of the Stalin-era northern route which was supported to extend to Igarka but now is planned to go only half as far and end for the time being at Korotchayevo.
“The immediate task,” she continues, “is to link up the two railroads of the Northern Main Line, the Northern and the Sverdlovsk and then develop it further to the north and to the east.” That will allow for the economic development of the region and promote Russian national security by supporting Moscow’s Arctic projects.