From polar to nuclear?

January 5, 2009 | 00:00

From polar to nuclear?
"Nuclearification" of the Russian offshore oil and gas industry

Russia is planning extensive development of offshore oil and gas reserves in the Arctic. Due to severe climate conditions and the energy demands inherent in this exploration, proposals have emerged to use nuclear-powered underwater drill ships and floating nuclear power plants for the upcoming projects.

The Russian Navy, Russian nuclear industry and submarine design centres which were deprived of
lavish state sponsorship after the collapse of the Soviet Union are desperately seeking ways to survive.

One of the ideas which surfaced in the 1990s was to use nuclear submarines as underwater ships to
transport cargo along the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic. However, this idea was quickly discarded as it was not proven to be economically viable and was associated with great risks.

The 1980s and 1990s brought the discovery of new oil and gas fields on the shelf of the Barents and
Kara Seas. The exploration of these deposits, however, has faced significant limitations due to the
severe climate of the Arctic. Because of these factors, the prospect of designing and building an
underwater drilling site looks like a reasonable idea. Designers of nuclear-powered submarines believethe technologies they have developed thus far may be applied to offshore oil and gas exploration. They suggest building nuclear-powered underwater drill ships, as well as using nuclear icebreakers and floating nuclear power plants for Russia's oil and gas venture in the Arctic.

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