|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Washington Post / Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Russian scientists say huge deposit of industrial diamonds could revolutionize industry
Ученые из Института геологии и минералогии СО РАН рассказали о месторождении импактных (т.е. возникших в результате падения метеорита) технических алмазов в Сибири. Месторождение, расположенное в зоне Попигайской астроблемы (метеоритного кратера возрастом около 35 миллионов лет и диаметром около 100 км) было открыто еще в 1970-х годах, но до недавнего времени не использовалось.
MOSCOW - Russian scientists are claiming that a gigantic deposit of industrial diamonds found in a huge Siberian meteorite crater during Soviet times could revolutionize industry.
The Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Sciences said that the Popigai crater in eastern Siberia contains "many trillions of carats" of so-called "impact diamonds" - good for technological purposes, not for jewelry, and far exceeding the currently known global deposits of conventional diamonds.
Nikolai Pokhilenko, the head of the Geological and Mineralogical Institute in Novosibirsk, told RIA Novosti news agency Monday that the diamonds include other molecular forms of carbon. He said they could be twice as hard as conventional diamonds and therefore have superlative industrial qualities.
He said the minerals could lead to a "revolution" in various industries. "But they can't upset a diamond market because it is shaped by diamonds for jewelry purposes."
The deposit was discovered by Soviet scientists in the 1970s, but was left unexplored as the Soviet leadership opted for producing synthetic diamonds for industrial use. The deposit remained classified until after the Soviet collapse.
Pokhilenko said that the diamonds owe their unparalleled hardness to enormous pressure and high temperatures at the moment of explosion when a giant meteorite hit 35 million years ago, leaving a 100-kilometer (60-mile) crater.
The Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that scientists discussed the issue at a roundtable in Novosibirsk over the weekend, saying that further studies will be needed to assess economic aspects of their potential exploration.
Pokhilenko said his institute is planning to send an expedition to the crater in cooperation with Russia's state-controlled diamond mining company Alrosa.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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© 1996-2012 The Washington Post.
Space Daily / Sep 18, 2012
Space formula of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
155 лет со дня рождения одного из пионеров космонавтики - Константина Циолковского.
155 years ago, on September 17, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics, was born in the Russian province. One of his famous sayings goes: "Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever". Long before the beginning of the space era this Great Russian scientist derived a formula for space rockets' overcoming the earth's gravity.
Tsiolkovsky's scientific heritage consists of 400 works including drawings of jet rockets, different calculations and forecasts, philosophical works and fantastic novels about inter-planetary voyages.
Tsiolkovsky dreamt about space since he was a child, the head of a department at the Tsiolkovsky Museum of Astronautics History Tatyana Zhelnina says.
"He thought that he was born with this dream. For a very long time Tsiolkovsky did not know how the earth gravity could be overcome. When he was 15 he learnt from the Malinin physics textbook (one of the best physics textbooks of that time) that to do this it was necessary to build up speed at least 28,000 km per hour. But what a flying vehicle should look like to develop such a speed, he did not know."
Once when he was 17, it seemed to him that he had invented this vehicle. He walked all night long down the streets of Moscow where he lived then but finally he came to the conclusion that he was wrong in his calculations. The next 20 years of his life Tsiolkovsky devoted to definition of the qualities of the space environment, Zhelnina continues.
"If it had been determined that space denied human organism there would have been no need to look for technical solutions to overcome earth gravity. He wrote several significant works, in which he laid the foundation for the discipline, which is now known as the "physics of zero gravity".
He came to understand that space environment would not kill a human being. He was confident that man would manage to accommodate in space and to neutralize the dangerous effects of zero gravity."
The world's first spaceman Yury Gagarin said that during his flight he had been able to see how precise Tsiolkovsky's conclusions on all the factors of space flight were. In 1903, he published his most important work "The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices".
In this work Tsiolkovsky presented the Tsiolkovsky formula which was simple: in order to build up space speed the fuel mass must be four times as heavy as the weight of the rocket. For the implementation of this idea he came up with the idea of a multistage spacecraft.
Modern scientists are still surprised by Tsiolkovsky's far-sightedness. The great scientists predicted modern lock chambers and space suits for space walks.
Today Earthlings have their own home on the orbit which is the International Space Station (ISS). This construction weights 200 tons and can freely soar in empty space.
The idea of the space station also belongs to Tsiolkovsky who was also confident that the human race would be able to explore the Moon and Mars. According to the scientist, in order to survive humans must have in store a space at least within the boundaries of the solar system.
Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network.
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Scientific American / September 18, 2012
Russia Uses Lesson of Chernobyl as a Selling Point for Its Reactor Technology
Competing with France, the U.S. and other nuclear nations, Russia offers buyers lower-cost reactor deals that tout safety features engineered with the Chernobyl disaster in mind
4-6 июня в Санкт-Петербурге состоялся Международный форум «АтомЭкспо-2012». На выставке, прошедшей в рамках форума, Россия представила технологии, призванные повысить безопасность атомных реакторов.
Russia's nuclear ambitions were on full display at "AtomExpo" - a three-day festival of international nuclear technology and conversation hosted by Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear company, this past June in Moscow. Whether it was Fukushima's plant manager describing those first critical moments during the tsunami and the new thinking on "extreme" natural events or the myriad branches of the Rosatom empire showing off their wares at their slick booths, the message was clear: When it comes to nuclear, Russia is open for business.
The disastrous legacy of Chernobyl in Ukraine, where a Soviet-built reactor spectacularly blew up in 1986, is something of a PR problem, however. When Russia expressed interest in supplying the U.K. with 12 new reactors earlier this year, "immediately there appeared some articles with the headline "Do you want another Chernobyl" Sergei Novikov, Rosatom's spokesman, told me. "The phantoms of the Soviet period appear immediately."
Rosatom, though, is trying to spin the Chernobyl nightmare into a selling point: Who better to understand nuclear safety than the people who lived through the worst?
One of the biggest safety lessons of Chernobyl for Russian technology is a structure called a "core-catcher" - a steel vessel, water-cooled, built directly under a reactor to catch the molten reactor core in case of meltdown. The technology had been explored for years globally but had yet to be considered standard until Russia began adopting it after Chernobyl. In fact, physicist Leonid Bolshov, the man responsible for that design in those early days, has now become a leading Russian expert on nuclear safety. He is director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nuclear Safety Institute, which he set up after Chernobyl heralding the beginning of Russia's cooperation with other countries on nuclear safety. His role at the time was considered so important after Chernobyl that he was issued one the few external fax lines in the Soviet Union so that he could communicate with other experts abroad.
Before the meltdown in 1986 Bolshov would have been an unlikely hero. A theoretical physicist with no prior nuclear experience, Bolshov didn't get the call for help until the Chernobyl reactor had already been melting down for five days. The challenge was to stop the hot core from potentially seeping into the ground or - worse - 30 meters lower to water table, where radiation could potentially reach the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the Black Sea. "It was sort of a nightmare," Bolshov says.
"There was that Hollywood blockbuster called the China Syndrome and this same problem was exactly what we were trying to answer those first days in May," he recounted in his Moscow office earlier this year. "The Politburo was demanding a 100 percent guarantee of "mitigation efficiency, " assuming that the fuel was inside, not outside the reactor, and calling for no further leaks into the air or earth. But this is contradictory," Bolshov says. "If you cover the source of the heat you decrease the cooling."
Two weeks of desperate chalkboard trial and error followed, as workers at the site were taking desperate and sometimes unsuccessful measures such as injecting liquid nitrogen into the soil to freeze it. Meanwhile, back in Moscow Bolshov and his team tried to calculate how fast the uranium dioxide fuel would melt compared with how fast they could carry away heat with some kind of coolant carried in pipes. But they had to figure out how to lay the pipes under a smoldering reactor. It was impossible to drill the soil under the reactor and pack the pipes densely enough to cool the melting fuel. What they needed were miners to install the pipes properly, but they also needed something to lower the temperature at the first moment the melting fuel touched the pipes, something with a high thermo-conductivity. The best candidate was graphite. But they would require vast amounts of this material.
"Those days were remarkable. In one day we collected enough graphite from all of the country. The regular bureaucratic system was in shock and it was possible to operate on science, on common sense. One call, a scrap of paper, and there were troops and heavy machinery on the move." Their final makeshift design was a snakelike formation of pipes cooled with water and covered on top with a thin graphite layer, all between two concrete layers - each one meter thick - to stabilize the creation. In short, Bolshov says, "it was done as a sandwich."
Bolshov's graphite-concrete "sandwich," similar in concept to "core-catchers" used in many nuclear reactor designs, paved the way for the ones Russia uses today - steel vessels filled with neutron-absorbing metallic alloys cooled by water flow and built directly under a reactor to catch the molten core material, known as "corium," in the case of meltdown. (A New York Times interview with Mr. Bolshov directly following the Fukushima disaster lays out more detail on the core-catcher's history and Russia's safety assurances in the post-Chernobyl marketplace).
Today many of Russia's potential customers for nuclear power plants are countries like Vietnam and Turkey, which are turning to nuclear for the first time and looking for cost-cutting perks the Russians can offer. In the case of Turkey, for instance, Russia is negotiating a plan called "Build-Own-Operate," in which it will finance and build four reactors in Turkey but retain ownership.
The reactor design of choice for these "nuclear newcomers," as Rosatom officials like to call them, is the VVER - Voda-Vodyanoi Energetichesky Reaktor, Russia's version of the pressurized water reactor, which has several indigenous distinctions from Western-designed reactors ranging from fuel assembly arrangements to a new passive residual heat-removal system, already being used in Russia and recently constructed in India. Russia has also built VVERs in Iran, China and across the former Eastern Bloc.
European regulators are increasingly requiring large new reactors to have some kind of core-catcher or similar device to trap melting reactor core, according to the World Nuclear Association. But other nuclear vendors have different approaches to protecting the bottom layers of nuclear plants. For example, in case of core melt, says Rosatom competitor Westinghouse's spokesman Scott Shaw, Westinghouse's AP1000 pressurized water reactors do not include core-catchers, yet compete for the same market the VVERs do. Instead, the former has a retention wall build into the reactor vessel itself, which he says would mitigate any core meltdown. In addition, an AP1000 operator "can act to flood the reactor cavity - the space immediately surrounding the reactor vessel - with water from the in-containment refueling water-storage tank, submerging the lower portion of the reactor vessel." The French company Areva also makes its EPR (for European Pressurized Reactor, or Evolutionary Power Reactor) with a core-catcher, helping it compete with the Russian VVER. Its device is focused on the idea of molten corium spreading along a sufficiently large area equipped with a special pipe system for basement cooling. But the Russians say their core-catchers are more compact and less costly than the European designs.
Russia's core-catchers have yet to be tested by a real-world China Syndrome. But there is some evidence that they might come in handy. During the Fukushima disaster one core "slumped" into the concrete beneath the reactor, which was built in the 1960s and did not have core-catcher, says Princeton physicist Frank von Hippel, a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The core leaked into the concrete below the reactor but did not breach the containment vessel.
"The Russians do know how to get things working, like they did in the space field," says Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, which presses lawmakers to take a closer look at the global spread of nuclear technology. "But sociologically and historically they have a lot working against them when it comes to quality assurance." Rosatom counters that they have independent oversight, a separate body in the government that answers to the prime minister on industrial safety, and that their models meet all International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards. (The IAEA encourages standards and guidelines but does not monitor compliance.)
The first Russian core-catcher was placed under China's Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in 2007. Earlier this summer I looked into the pit of what will soon be the reactor vessel of one of two new VVER 1200-megawatt reactors under construction in Novovoronezh in southern Russia but couldn't see the core-catcher - it was already buried 4.45 meters below.
If Russia is successful in selling their post-Chernobyl nuclear technology, their core-catcher technology will be a key part of what's standing between their customers and another Chernobyl-like disaster. Whether it works in a real-life scenario remains an unanswered question. To use Bolshov's observation, we've had enough nuclear "nightmares" by now.
© 2012 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Vancouver Sun / September 11, 2012
Russia sets "super goal" of establishing Moon base
- By Alissa de Carbonnel, Reuters
Вице-премьер РФ Дмитрий Рогозин считает, что строительство научной базы на Луне могло бы стать престижным проектом-стимулом для российской космической отрасли и науки вообще.
MOSCOW - Russia should set itself the "super goal" of building a large base on the Moon it could use to achieve "leaps" in science and to give a new sense of purpose to its troubled space programme, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday.
Calling the task "big, prestigious and political", Rogozin said the country's space industry - which has suffered a string of costly and embarrassing failures - urgently needed a tangible stimulus to force it to focus.
"There is a lot of competition among countries in the space sector and so we must have a big super goal that could pull forward science and industry; that would enable the country to escape from the morass of problems, which have kept us captive for the past 20 years," Rogozin told the Vesti FM radio station.
"Why not try to build a big station on the Moon that would be a base for future "leaps" of science?".
Russia's renewed focus on the Moon may reflect a scaling back of ambition following a string of space failures and comes as other countries - notably China - are eyeing the Moon with greater ambition. Beijing plans to land its first probe there next year even though it still has a long way to go to catch up with space superpowers Russia and the United States.
Scientists have said the Moon may hold reserves of water and suggested various minerals could possibly be mined there.
The Soviet Union put the first satellite and the first man in space, but those glory days are a distant memory. Crimped budgets and a brain drain mean Moscow has long been absent from deep space and its space programme appears to be in trouble.
Last year, a Russian mission failed to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos, and last month the failure of a Proton rocket caused the multi million-dollar loss of Indonesia's Telkom-3 and Russia's Express-MD2 satellites.
"We are losing our authority and billions of roubles," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told officials at a government meeting last month.
Roskosmos, Russia's space agency, has previously floated the idea of a Moon base - possibly built in collaboration with the United States and Europe - and has also spoken of the option of constructing a space station that would orbit the Moon.
It is planning to send two unmanned missions to the Moon by 2020 and there have been reports that it is weighing a manned mission there too.
Russian scientists and cosmonauts have suggested lunar colonisers could take shelter in what they believe is a network of underground caves left by the Moon's volcanic past.
"It's too far and too expensive to Mars," space industry expert Igor Lissov told the state RIA news agency. "We must start with the moon. We must give ourselves realistic goals."
Rogozin said the Moon project could be a jumping-off point for future deep space projects.
Space agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday that Russia would recall the rocket type which caused the multi-million dollar loss of Indonesian and Russian telecom satellites last month.
Such failures for Russia, which conducts some 40 percent of global space launches, risk undermining its standing in the market, strengthening competitors such as Europe's Ariane rocket.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun.
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Le Figaro / le 27/09/2012
Une comète pourrait briller plus fort que Vénus
Сотрудник астрономической обсерватории Петрозаводского государственного университета Артем Новичонок и астроном-любитель из Беларуси Виталий Невский открыли комету, которая, возможно станет самой яркой в этом десятилетии. Открытие было сделано в обсерватории ISON-Kislovodsk, Международной научной сети оптических инструментов (ISON), расположенной вблизи Кисловодска.
Si elle ne se désintègre pas en vol, la comète Ison passera à moins de 2 millions de kilomètres du Soleil fin novembre 2013 et pourrait être visible en plein jour dans l'hémisphère Nord.
Une comète découverte à Kislovodsk, en Russie, le 21 septembre, plonge droit sur le Soleil. Baptisée Ison* par ses découvreurs russe, Artyom Novichonok, et biélorusse, Vitali Nevski, elle est actuellement située à proximité de l'orbite de Jupiter. Elle devrait frôler notre étoile à moins de 2 millions de kilomètres (soit un centième environ de la distance Terre-Soleil) en novembre 2013. Lors de ce passage, cette boule de roche et de glace se vaporiserait alors en partie, laissant derrière elle une magnifique traînée lumineuse, la fameuse «queue», visible dans une grande partie de l'hémisphère Nord.
On ne connaît pas encore précisément le diamètre de la comète, mais les spécialistes estiment qu'elle devrait être visible à l'œil nu entre début novembre et fin janvier. Selon les prévisions de trois astronomes de l'observatoire de Remanzacco, en Italie, elle pourrait briller cent fois plus fort que Vénus, «l'étoile» la plus brillante du ciel. Ce pic de luminosité serait atteint, selon leurs calculs préliminaires, le 29 novembre 2013. Certains astronomes estiment que la comète pourrait même se révéler plus éclatante que la pleine lune.
Les professionnels restent prudents
Se rappelant notamment le rendez-vous manqué avec la comète Elenin, qui avait disparu en plein vol en octobre 2011, une partie de la communauté préfère toutefois ne pas s'emballer trop vite. C'est le cas de Karl Battams, spécialiste des comètes à la Nasa. «Il est très possible que ce soit une "nouvelle comète" provenant du nuage d'Oort (un réservoir sphérique de comètes situé à un peu moins d'une année-lumière de nous, soit bien plus loin que la dernière planète du Système solaire, NDLR), ce qui voudrait dire que cela pourrait bien être sa première rencontre avec le Soleil. Si c'est le cas, elle regorge sûrement de glaces intactes très volatiles et pourrait bien n'avoir jamais fait face à de véritables contraintes thermiques ou gravitationnelles. Elle pourrait donc très bien exploser et s'évaporer des semaines, voire des mois, avant de frôler le Soleil.»
Dans ce cas, le spectacle tant attendu n'aurait pas lieu. Karl Battams reconnaît cependant qu'en l'état actuel des observations, l'hypothèse plus séduisante d'un passage éblouissant est loin d'être improbable. Pour en savoir plus, les astronomes amateurs et professionnels vont encore devoir attendre quelques mois, le temps que la comète se rapproche un peu. L'astre prometteur pourra alors être scruté avec la plus grande attention.
* Du nom du réseau de télescopes, International Scientific Optical Network, auquel appartient leur outil de travail.
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University World News / 23 September 2012
Government mounts attack on university autonomy
Правительство России намерено радикально изменить методы управления национальными университетами с целью повышения их исследовательского потенциала. Каковы возможные последствия этого шага, будет ли он эффективным?
The Russian government is considering a radical shift in the management of national universities, in an attempt to strengthen their research potential and Russian science. But there are fears that the move will erode university autonomy.
During the Soviet era the Russian National Academy of Sciences was the centre of research activity in Russia, and the role of universities in academic life was limited to training specialists for various industries.
However, in recent years the position of the Academy in Russian science has weakened, forcing the government to think about alternative ways to develop research.
Under changes hailed by the Ministry of Education and Science, and in particular Minister Dmitry Livanov, national universities will become the new centres of research in Russia in the next decade.
This is expected to happen after university reforms are completed and up to 20% of institutions are closed. There are plans to cut one in five of Russia's 600 universities and 30% to 35% of its more than 1,400 university branches that are identified as inefficient by a state commission.
The Russian government makes no secret of its plans to rely in future on university research instead of the academy, which according to some officials has an outdated structure and needs to be modernised.
According to the government, under current conditions universities can become more competitive research centres than the academy, and their research activities can generate income.
But one of the major obstacles, which the ministry has said is preventing the transformation of national universities, is their inefficient management structure, which needs to be improved.
"All Russian universities should be headed by the new, business-oriented professionals. We are thinking about how to make our higher education practical, tailored to the needs of employers and the labour market," Livanov commented.
"There is a need to attract employers and the public into the management structure of universities and to create new models of university management."
As part of these plans, the ministry is to start appointing university presidents, instead of the current practice of rectors being elected by university staff.
The election of presidents has already been abolished at a number of leading universities, in particular Moscow State University and St Petersburg State University, whose presidents are currently appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is possible that this practice will soon be applied to other leading universities, which regularly receive funds from the state budget. The government is already appointing the presidents of federal universities. Another management shift in universities will be the age of presidents and other key managers, who will retire on a pension at the age of 70.
The government plans have been criticised by many student and academics, who believe the attack on university autonomy is an attempt by the state to gain control over institutions' considerable resources, clamp down on student protests and give good jobs to members of the political elite.
Yasen Zasursky, head of the faculty of journalism at Moscow State University, described the new system as inefficient.
"Russian universities have a long tradition of democratic election of their presidents…In my opinion, it is a useful practice and should be retained in other universities, as Moscow University has lost it. In this case, democracy is very helpful, especially since it corresponds to the academic tradition," Zasursky commented.
The idea of appointing university presidents was first raised by Andrei Fursenko, a former education minister.
At the time it was proposed that university presidents should be well-known scientists, and especially members of the Russian National Academy of Sciences. But due to the government's displeasure at the performance of the academy, this seems unlikely, causing concern among some experts that new presidents selected will be people close to the government.
© Copyright University World News 2007-2012.
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Bloomberg / Sep 25, 2012
Arctic Oil Near Soviet Toxic Waste in Exxon-Rosneft Plan
Организация Greenpeace намерена выступить против бурения в Карском море, которое собираются проводить ОАО «Роснефть» и американская компания Exxon Mobil Corp., крупнейшая частная нефтяная компания в мире. Экологи считают, что перед тем, как осваивать территорию, ее надо очистить.
Самым опасным объектом на дне моря является советская атомная подводная лодка K-27, затопленная в 1981 году. Хотя признаков повышенного радиоактивного излучения пока не обнаружено, коррозия может разрушить реактор и тем самым создать чрезвычайную ситуацию, уверяет государственное Норвежское агентство радиационной защиты.
The Kara Sea, a body of Arctic waters so remote that the Soviet Union used it as an atomic waste dump for more than 25 years, has become the focus of an environmental battle that oil companies are preparing to win.
Exxon Mobil Corp. and its Russian partner OAO Rosneft (ROSN) are taking steps to drill near the ocean-floor wasteland, eager to plumb an Arctic region estimated to hold enough crude to supply the world for five years. They've sidestepped environmental groups' calls for a clean-up prior to exploration of the area off Russia's northern coast where Soviet ships dumped worn-out reactors and 17,000 containers of radioactive waste.
Scientists in Norway today presented the first survey of atomic pollution in the region for 18 years. Levels of gamma radiation haven't increased and are "generally low," said Hilde Elise Heldal, the Norwegian leader of the expedition. The lack of visible leaks may rob some ecologists of a weapon to stop drilling that oil companies say can be done safely.
"All ecological and nature protection norms are being followed at the same time," Rustam Kazharov, a spokesman at Rosneft, said by e-mail. The Moscow-based company is preparing for exploration based on Russian law and "the best world practices available." Exxon and Rosneft this month agreed to start designing a platform to drill in the Kara Sea's shallow waters. The first well could be started as soon as 2014.
The Kara Sea's toxic history highlights the risks to the Arctic, one of the world's most remote regions and still a magnet for environmental activism. Politicians including a group of U.K. legislators and ecologists have urged a ban on oil and gas exploration to protect the region from the risk of spills.
Greenpeace has campaigned against Arctic drilling by Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) in Alaska, Cairn Energy Plc (CNE) in Greenland and OAO Gazprom (OGZD) in Russia. The activist group will oppose drilling in the Kara Sea regardless of the published findings, said Dima Litvinov, a Greenpeace campaigner on Russian issues.
"This waste must be retrieved and stored as safely as possible on land if we are to avoid a catastrophe," Litvinov said. "Russians, or anyone else, shouldn't be drilling for hydrocarbons in the Arctic."
The single most dangerous item at the bottom of the sea is the K-27 nuclear submarine, scuttled by the Soviet navy in 1981. While there's no sign of increased radiation from the ship, corrosion may damage the ship's reactor and potentially cause an environmental emergency, according to the state-run Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, or NRPA.
"There might be a hypothetical possibility that the spent nuclear fuel in the reactor in extreme situations can cause an uncontrolled chain reaction, which can lead to heat and radioactivity releases," said Per Strand, a director at the agency, which backed the international scientific expedition.
Authorities in Russia and Norway need to make the safe disposal of K-27 their top priority, Strand said in an interview. The sea lies about 600 miles (965 kilometers) to the east of Norway.
International scientists, who last measured pollution in the Kara Sea in 1994, will need to continue to carry out sample tests, Igor Shumakov, a deputy head of the Russian hydrometeorology watchdog, said today at a press conference in Kirkenes, Norway. "The Russian government is drafting a plan to clean up the Arctic seas."
The joint Norwegian-Russian expedition took water, biological and bottom sediment samples in the Stepovogo Fjord, where the K-27 submarine was sunk, Heldal said. The scientists sent remote-controlled submersible vehicles with cameras and didn't detect any corrosion damage to the outer hull, she said. A survey of selected containers with radioactive waste also showed that they are "intact," she said.
Rosneft, Exxon's partner and Russia's state oil company, last month began surveying the East Prinovozemelsky 1 and 2 license blocks. Block 1 is adjacent to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, where the Soviet regime dumped reactors and waste, according to research published in 1993 by Russian scientist Alexei Yablokov.
"Prior to drilling any well we study the seabed in the surrounding area for potential hazards," Patrick McGinn, a spokesman at Irving, Texas-based Exxon, said by e-mail. "This is standard industry practice."
Until 1992, the Soviet Union dumped solid and liquid waste in the neighboring Kara and Barents seas, including atomic fuel from the icebreaker Lenin, the world's first nuclear-powered civilian vessel, according to an NRPA report. There's still a lack of comprehensive data about the dumping because of Soviet secrecy and poor accountability, said Igor Kudrik, an ecologist from Norwegian campaign group Bellona.
"Oil companies should make sure that the area is swiped clean of nuclear waste before they start any oil exploration activity," Kudrik said. "In the worst-case scenario - that is, an uncontrolled chain reaction in the reactor of K-27 - radiation will spread in the Kara Sea and create major difficulties for any industrial activity."
The three blocks where they've been granted permission may hold as much as 21 billion metric tons (154 billion barrels) of oil and natural gas, the Russian company says. That would be almost five years of global oil use, according to BP Plc (BP/) data.
Removing the K-27 submarine is a priority for the region, said Yablokov, who advised former President Boris Yeltsin on the environment. A reactor leak on the ship killed nine sailors in 1968. The navy tried to repair it before deciding to seal the nuclear units and sinking the ship 13 years later.
"K-27 is a dangerous object and there are plans to lift it from the sea bottom for proper disposal," Yablokov said in a phone interview. "Technically it's possible."
Russia should make sure the region is inspected every three years, said Vyacheslav Shershakov, the Russian leader of the scientific expedition. Sampling should be expanded and any possible impact on the food chain looked at, he said.
The catalog of atomic material dumped in the Kara Sea includes liquid, reactors, spent nuclear fuel, 19 ships carrying solid waste and 17,000 containers, according to the NRPA. The content of many is unknown, Yablokov said.
Some of the containers were shot with machine guns to sink them when they floated in the water, he said. "We know more or less precisely where the largest objects have been dumped," he said. Oil exploration is unlikely to be affected if it stays away from the shallow waters next to Novaya Zemlya, he said.
Norway's Statoil ASA and Eni SpA of Italy have set up joint ventures with Rosneft to explore in the Russian area of the Barents Sea, a larger body of water next to the Kara Sea, where the Soviet Union also dumped liquid waste. The partners are targeting about 15 billion and 26 billion barrels of oil and gas resources respectively.
"Companies are turning to frontier areas for new resources as conventional production regions like the North Sea have matured," said Stuart Joyner, an Investec Securities Ltd. analyst in London. "International oil companies are being offered concessions in the Arctic because Russian companies like Rosneft don't yet possess the technological capability to explore alone."
Statoil will invest about $2.5 billion in initial exploration with Rosneft, including additional areas in the Sea of Okhotsk. "We do not expect nuclear waste issues to hinder the joint exploration," Baard Glad Pedersen, a spokesman at Statoil, said by e-mail.
Eni and Rosneft plan to drill the first well in Russian areas of the Barents Sea before 2020, according to Rosneft. A spokesman at Eni declined to comment.
© 2012 Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved.
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bulletins-electroniques.com / 24/09/2012
Des scientifiques russes et français ont développé des "concentrateurs" d'énergie solaire
Международная группа ученых из Института металлоорганической химии им. Г.А. Разуваева РАН, Института физики им. Б.И. Степанова НАН (Беларусь) и Института Шарля Жерара (Франция) разработали люминесцентные концентраторы солнечной энергии, преобразующие световую энергию в электрическую.
Des chercheurs russes et français ont inventé un nouveau procédé d'élaboration de concentrateurs fluorescents de l'énergie solaire.
Un des obstacles à plus grande utilisation de l'énergie solaire est le rendement faible associé à des coûts de fabrication élevés. Un des moyens pour remédier à cela est l'utilisation de " concentrateurs de l'énergie lumineuse ", comme les concentrateurs fluorescents solaires. Les chercheurs travaillent sur de tels concentrateurs, qui pourraient traiter tout le spectre des rayons solaires tombant sur la Terre.
Des chercheurs venant des 3 institutions différentes : L'institut de chimie métalloorganique Rasouvaev, l'institut de physique Stepanov, l'institut Charles Gerhardt (Montpellier). Ils ont mis au point un modèle de concentrateur.
Lors de la synthèse du polymère, ils dissolvent des luminophores spécialement conçus, qui se solidifient sous l'action de la lumière, pour atteindre une épaisseur de 250microns. Cette pellicule est ensuite fixée sur une plaque de vers d'1cm d'épaisseur à laquelle sont également fixés les éléments photovoltaïques.
bulletins-electroniques.com tous droits réservés.
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Phys.Org / September 25, 2012
Work begins on the world's largest cosmic ray observatory
- By Jenny Winder, Universe Today
В Тункинской долине (Бурятия) начались работы по созданию гамма-обсерватории площадью около 100 кв.км. Три года назад там запустили крупнейшую в мире черенковскую установку «Тунка-133» для исследования космических лучей сверхвысоких энергий. После того, как установка доказала свою эффективность, пришла очередь более масштабных сооружений.
"Tunka HiSCORE" - совместный проект Исследовательского института прикладной физики Иркутского госуниверситета, НИИ ядерной физики Московского госуниверситета, Института ядерных исследований РАН, Гамбургского университета, Технологического института Карлсруэ и крупнейшего в Германии исследовательского центра по физике частиц DESY.
Construction has just begun at the Tunka Valley near Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia on an observatory that, once completed, will consist of an array of up to 1,000 detectors covering 100 square kilometres. Its size will allow scientists to investigate cosmic rays - the space radiation emitted from gamma rays and heavier nuclei - which are accelerated to energies higher than those achieved in the Large Hadron Collider. With the new observatory, called HiSCORE (Hundred Square-km Cosmic ORigin Explorer), scientists hope to solve the mystery of the origins of cosmic rays, and perhaps probe dark matter too.
It was a hundred years ago that Austrian-American physicist Victor Hess first discovered that radiation was penetrating Earth's atmosphere from outer space. The problem has been to track down their origin, as cosmic rays consist of charged particles and are therefore deflected in interstellar and intergalactic magnetic fields. The use of simple, inexpensive detector stations, placed several hundred meters apart, makes it possible to instrument a huge area, allowing scientists to investigate cosmic rays within an energy range from 100 TeV up to at least 1 EeV.
Cosmic rays cannot penetrate our atmosphere but each detector can observe the radiation created when cosmic rays hit the Earth's upper atmosphere, causing a shower of secondary particles that travel faster than the speed of light in air, producing Cherenkov radiation in the process. This light is weak, but can be detected on the surface of the earth with sensitive instruments like HiSCORE's photomultiplier tubes. Cherenkov radiation can be used to determine the source and intensity of cosmic rays as well as to investigate the properties of high-energy astronomical objects that emit gamma rays like supernova remnants and blazars. The wide field of view also allows HiSCORE to monitor extended gamma ray emitting structures such as molecular gas clouds, dense regions or large scale structures such as star forming regions or the galactic plane. HiSCORE can also be used for testing theories about Dark Matter. A strong absorption feature is expected around 100 TeV. Examination can give information about the absorption of gamma rays in the interstellar photon fields and the CMB.
If the absorption is less than expected, this might indicate the presence of hidden photons or axions. Also, the decay of heavy supersymmetric particles might be detectable by HiSCORE. The data will improve as the facility grows over the years. By 2013-14 the area will be around one square kilometre, and over 10 square kilometres by 2016. HiSCORE is a joint project between the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Irkutsk State University in Siberia and Lomonosov Moscow State University - as well as DESY, the University of Hamburg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. HiSCORE also hopes to collaborate with the Pierre Auger observatory in Argentina.
© Phys.Org™ 2003-2012.
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Russia & India Report / September 28, 2012
Next stop: Mars
It seems the next stop in man's journey of discovery into the solar system will be the Red Planet
- Andrei Kislyakov, specially for RIR
Глава РКК «Энергия» Виталий Лопота считает, что Марс является единственной пригодной для колонизации планетой Солнечной системы. В следующие 50 лет это станет основной целью для всех государств.
Vitaly Lopota, president and general constructor of Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, believes Mars is the only planet in the solar system that would be suitable for human colonization. "Over the next 50 years, Mars will be the focus of space research and exploration," he said at the recently-held seventh International Aerospace Congress in Moscow.
Explaining why Mars is the only other planet in the solar system that could support mankind, Lopota reminded those present at the congress that Venus would be fundamentally unsuitable as its surface temperature hovers around 500єC, and its air pressure is double that of the atmosphere on Earth.
"The only other option is Mars…this planet could be a relatively comfortable place to live, air pressure is just a hundredth of what it is on Earth. When looking into the task of space colonisation, Mars is a good place to start. Furthermore, Mars is the only planet with enough water to support humans," says Lopota.
Russian scientists have already developed selection criteria for recruiting a team to fly to Mars. When choosing the right man for a prolonged piloted mission, the two most important qualities are good genes and a large degree of physical and mental strength, says Anatoly Potapov, researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Problems at the Russian Academy of Science.
"When choosing a team for a Mars mission we are mainly looking for genetic attributes and top results in rigorous physical and psychological testing," Potapov says. "We now have every tool at our disposal to help develop a system that will ensure the biomedical security of the Mars mission. The International Space Station is a particularly useful resource for preparing future interplanetary expeditions".
According to Potapov, specialists are hoping to create a special medicine module in the Russian section of the International Space Station (ISS), which will draw on the results of the Mars-500 experiment that took place between June 2010 and November 2011. "We have 20 years to prepare structures that will ensure biomedical security for prolonged orbital and interplanetary flights, the researcher says. "We are now able to carry out research using unmanned spacecraft and biosatellites, we can conduct insulated bio-molecular experiments, conduct model experiments in isolation, we can look into simulating the state of weightlessness and conduct research in the extreme conditions of the Arctic, the Antarctic and the desert," Potapov says.
Specialists at the Institute for Biomedical Problems believe the most pressing task when getting interplanetary expeditions off the ground is to find a way of isolating the space life-support system and make it self-sustaining. To create such a system, one that will be able to guarantee the regeneration of vital supplies, scientists need at least 10 years. The main problem facing scientists is how to ensure a constant production of oxygen, water, food, and how to eliminate metabolic waste products.
The Mars-500 experiment did much to increase scientists' understanding of how humans cope with prolonged periods in space. Nevertheless, scientists only managed to recreate some of the conditions cosmonauts would have to contend with on a real flight. As Victor Baranov, first vice-director of Institute of Biomedical Problems at the Russian Academy of Science explained, a similar experiment will be conducted using chimpanzees. "They will be subjected to the same radiation levels that are in space, whilst other issues will be examined using human testers," Baranov says
Unfortunately solving these issues will not yield conclusive answers about what happens to people who spend a long time in space. Weightlessness is very dangerous for the human body, and Mars-500 could not go so far as to model the lack of gravity in space. So there is still a question mark over whether humans will physically be able to cope with prolonged periods of without gravity.
American scientists believe people who have spent prolonged periods in space suffer from loss of bone density. Observations carried out on 13 astronauts, each of whom had spent 6 months at the International Space Station, revealed that their skeletal mass had decreased by an average of 14 percent since they first left Earth.
And of course, physical symptoms are just part of the problem. Prolonged space travel also puts the team under immense psychological strain. Unimaginable distances from the Earth, the long monotony and isolation of space travel, cramped conditions on board the spacecraft, the strange sensation of weightlessness, personal tensions within the team, substantial workload both on board the ship and out in open space, the unpredictable nature of the job, the huge risks involved, a sense that the entire mission rests on your shoulders:
These are all stresses a cosmonaut has to contend with day after day, and they can end up having a serious effect on his psychological state and ability to function.
With Mars missions, ground control will be able to do little to help in this respect. Up until now, cosmonauts have had teams of psychologists on tap at mission control and support has always been readily available in conditions, where the signal is good and communication can happen quite easily and effectively. But signals from Earth take 40 minutes to reach Mars, whilst many decisions will have to be made in a split second.
© 2007-2012 Russia Beyond The Headlines.
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NBCNews.com / 9/28/2012
Russians face their space crisis
Agency chief worries that country's aerospace industry is becoming uncompetitive
- By James Oberg, NBC News space analyst
Переживает ли российская космическая отрасль системный кризис?
HOUSTON - A veteran Russian cosmonaut's cynical and bitter words about the dire state of the Russian space industry seemed to spell his own career's abrupt end after his return to Earth from the International Space Station. But within a week, his unprecedented public criticism was echoed and elaborated on by Russia's top space officials.
Perhaps telling the truth is catching on in Moscow, but perhaps it's already almost too late to save the Russian space industry. Over the past two years, program leadership has appeared powerless to stop a series of embarrassing failures in spacecraft launchings and flight operations that have cast the future of the entire program in doubt.
At the traditional Russian post-landing press conference on Sept. 21, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka complained about the "spartan" conditions aboard the Russian side of the station, especially as compared with the American side. The conditions were cold, noisy, overstuffed with equipment, and cramped - each Russian had about one-seventh the living space that the American astronauts had. "All of this gives serious inconvenience in the operation of the Russian segment," he said.
Padalka compared the living conditions to the mass housing thrown together in the 1960s by Nikita Khrushchev - housing where many Russian city dwellers still reside. The apartment building is called a "khrushchevka," a bitter word play on both the late Soviet leader's name and on its root meaning, "beetle" (as in "bug house"). As the cosmonaut explained to reporters, he had spent his last three missions totaling about two years in duration aboard a "small-scale khrushchevka."
Padalka found the idea of spending an entire year in space, as has been proposed, to be completely unacceptable without major improvements in crew comfort.
The equipment, he continued, was reliable and safe but was decades out of date. "Nothing has been done in the 20 years since the foundation of the new Russia," he complained. The Russian space technology is technologically bankrupt and "morally exhausted." It was, he told reporters, "frozen in the last century."
He contrasted those conditions with the spaciousness and modernity of the American modules, and praised the advanced technology he saw there: the robotics experiment ("As always, still under study in Russia") and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft docking, for example.
In recent months, top Russian government officials have argued over exactly how deep the problems go within the Russian space industry. For some, it is a "systemic" crisis due to aging equipment and workers, avoidance of the industry by bright young engineers, and too much reliance on potentially biased "self-checking" of delivered hardware. Other officials deny any industry-wide weakness and attribute the public humiliations to localized problems.
Padalka didn't care about the origin of the crisis, just that he was at the "point of the spear" where the consequences were sharpest. "Maybe it's not a systemic crisis," he said, "but nonetheless, a crisis exists, and it is being felt."
He may have felt nearly alone in space, and perhaps speaking out the way he did made him feel even more alone in Moscow. But he wasn't alone for long.
Vindication from the top
2011 was a rough year for the Russian space industry. In March, a communication glitch forced the delay of a Soyuz launch to the space station. In August, Russia's Express AM-4 satellite was lost after being launched to the wrong orbit, and an unmanned Soyuz rocket carrying cargo to the space station crashed shortly after liftoff. In November, the Mars-bound Phobos-Grunt probe never made it out of Earth orbit, and crashed back down to Earth two months later.
After those setbacks, the Russian government tasked a deputy minister named Dmitri Rogozin to develop a strategy for fixing the aerospace industry's failings. Although his primary aim was defense-related technologies such as missiles, he was also responsible for space technology.
Rogozin developed and published a get-well strategy in March, and by all accounts it was realistic and reasonable. The strategy admitted that the visible setbacks were really consequences of deeper problems. But outside observers worried that it just wasn't possible to fix the problems without resources that the government was reluctant to commit.
Worse, the main problem Rogozin found was actually external to the Russian space industry. He realized that the Russian government didn't really have any idea what to do with the industrial base left over from Soviet times. He found that Russia wanted to continue human spaceflight with the International Space Station, and also "was planning to fly everywhere" without really understanding why. "There is no architecture of values, no clear understanding of concept," he complained.
"There is only one main task today," Rogozin told reporters this month. "Russia must determine its goals in space, what are we seeking?"
To be "provocative," he suggested a manned moon base as a guide to focusing the program.
Otherwise, he observed, there was no way to evaluate which components of the program were really even needed, and which were superfluous. "The industry is excessively large," he pointed out. "In our country, there are several large concerns that simultaneously produce similar products: control systems, launch systems, space satellites, engines. Inside the country, we cannot generate sufficient demand for the industry ourselves, it is working at about half of its capacity, and we also cannot control quality, with such a wide range of products it is impossible to control everything.
"The issue has arisen that indeed a very deep reform is necessary," he concluded. But rather than a short-term approach to "quality control" for the kludge of redundant factories and institutes, he stressed that the first step on a get-well strategy was to know where you wanted the program to go.
Reforming Russia's NASA
That's not to say that there weren't obvious fixes to implement within the Russian Space Agency, the small central bureaucracy tasked with coordinating the semi-independent space and rocket firms spread across Russia.
The man chosen a year ago to reform the space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, is a military officer with experience in space operations. He's also an expert on the true state of Russia's aerospace industry, thanks to his tour of duty as deputy defense minister for procurement. Over the past 12 months, he has been firing and hiring managers to carry out reforms.
On Thursday, while Padalka's post-flight complaints were still echoing in the Russian news media, Popovkin made a major policy speech to engineering students at a Moscow institute. He agreed with Rogozin, and also sounded as if he was channeling cosmonaut Gennady Padalka with a twinge of SpaceX founder Elon Musk thrown in.
Popovkin validated Padalka's assessment of the lack of technological progress by warning that Western advances into privatized space launch services would soon drive Russia out of the last corner of the international space industry where it had any standing. "We will become uncompetitive in the next three or four years if we don't take urgent measures," he told the students.
He warned that the foreign customers who currently channel almost a billion dollars a year into the Russian space industry for launch services could turn to the newer, cheaper, more reliable private rockets now under development in the United States and elsewhere. "I speak one seditious thought," he said. "My deep conviction is that in about five years SpaceX will be owned by either Boeing or Lockheed Martin. Believe it, it will."
In order for Russia to achieve the requisite level of quality, he continued, the country's rocket builders will have to become competing firms from which both the Russian Space Agency and foreign clients can purchase services.
He also told the students that the current space workforce was too old - and too large. "The average age of a worker is 43.9 years," he said, "and only 20% are under 35." The age of scientific workers is even higher, he continued: The average age of Ph.D.'s, for example, is 59.2 years.
Like Rogozin, Popovkin complained that there were too many people in too many firms that were set up in Soviet times. "If today over 250,000 people are employed,"
Popovkin said, "then we calculate that the maximum should be 150,000 to 170,000." This comment was made to encourage young people to seek space industry employment and redress the demographic imbalance.
Will anything help?
Cosmonaut Padalka's complaints, in this context, look a lot less heretical. They seem well within the range of reformist suggestions, as being implemented by Dmitri Rogozin and Vladimir Popovkin.
Since Russia is an intimate partner of the United States and other nations on the International Space Station, and is seeking closer international integration on deep-space missions, the prospects for its future reliability have profound implications for worldwide space planning.
Perhaps a leaner and younger space team can concentrate on a narrower selection of projects with reasonable hope of success. That may yet happen, but it's now clear that such an eventuality must be proved out with actual deeds, not with historical analogies, bold promises and optimistic assumptions.
Even in Russia, some observers believe that the "good old days" will never come again in space. Konstantin Bogdanov, aerospace correspondent for the newspaper Izvestia, wrote a thoughtful essay on the occasion of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight in April 2011. He called his essay "Fallen Giant: The Soviet Space Industry" and suggested it would never be able to revive the past glories that were nostalgically celebrated over Gagarin:
"Its capacity for working miracles disappeared in the 1990s when the colossal monolith crumbled along with the system that had spawned it, leaving a sea of bitterness and grudges in its wake, as well as nostalgia for a lost paradise for engineers and technicians. The fall of the aerospace industry was cruelly sobering after several decades of intoxication with the limitless possibilities afforded under the Soviet space program.
"The seeds of the Soviet space industry's tragic downfall had been sown in its very creation. It could not have been otherwise. Without those fatal flaws it would have never emerged, and would have failed to accomplish all those stunning feats that won respect the world over."
What Bogdanov referred to were specific conditions of the 1960s. The top engineers and scientists from all over the Soviety Union were channeled into the space program. They were rewarded both with rare perks - better stores, better hospitals, less ideological monitoring, access to foreign contact and even travel - and with a once-in-a-lifetime pride for pioneering world history. Money, materials, and manpower were unmatched.
Fifty years later, all of those conditions are gone, never to return.
"Even the Soviet Union, with its supposedly developed socialist society, could not escape the Darwinist dialectic," Bogdanov concluded. "Highly specialized "species" are unavoidably doomed to a bright, albeit brief, existence when the environment to which they were so perfectly adapted vanishes in an instant."
Like a hothouse orchid, brittle in its demand for precise support conditions, the Russian space program may have bloomed spectacularly when the conditions were right, and then wilted irremediably as the conditions vanished forever.
Time will tell if the Russian space program can retain the talent and the governmental support to surmount this chosen new challenge, the greatest in 50 years. Dedication and history they clearly have in abundance, along with an inspirational motto that got them through the dark days of the privations after the Soviet collapse: "The difficulties ahead of us are less than those we have already overcome," workers told each other then. Today, will that be enough?
NBC News space analyst James Oberg spent 22 years at NASA's Johnson Space Center as a Mission Control operator and an orbital designer. He is the author of several books on space history and space policy, including "Star-Crossed Orbits: Inside the U.S.-Russian Space Alliance."
© 2012 NBCNews.com.
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