Rogozin comments on Arctic development priorities

Which priorities in the development of the Arctic can be considered government priorities?

Dmitry Rogozin: They are defined in the Development Strategy for the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation until 2020. Priorities for us include the socioeconomic development of territories, the development of science and technologies, the establishment of modern information and telecommunications infrastructure, ensuring environmental security as well as the development of international cooperation with strict observance of Russia’s national interests.

What do these dry document lines mean? I’ll decipher it: the Arctic is a unique part of our countries. On the one hand, it contains enormous resources that are capable of developing the Russian economy. On the other hand, it is a harsh, cold region encompassing eight regions that are part of four federal districts. It is sparsely populated and has scant infrastructure. As it were, the civilizational and industrial development of the Arctic has taken place over a short time in historical terms. With no regard for natural conditions and without thinking about comfort and material gain, industrial centres were created in the harsh permafrost conditions through the will of the Soviet people.

Now, we have entered into new times. We seek to ensure that the life of people in the Arctic is no different from any other part of the country in terms of security and is sufficiently comfortable. Residents of Russia’s Arctic region should be confident in their economic and social future. They should not be detached from the cultural, social and public life of the rest of the country. This includes high-quality medical care along with the ability to receive an education and fulfil their desires professionally.

Communications and the internet, which have become an indispensable privilege of modern civilization, should be available even in the most remote populated areas. People should understand that help will come quickly if required. They should be confident in the ability to reach a regional centre year-round and not only via icy roads. Getting to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok or any other city in the country by road should not be like flying into space in terms of cost and time.

As for the international aspect, we strictly support preserving peace and cooperation in the Arctic.

New technologies for construction, energy and the mining industry are required for life in northern latitudes to be truly comfortable. What makes such technologies unique?

Dmitry Rogozin: Indeed, the main thing is the widespread use of achievements in science and new technologies. And, of course, the availability of highly qualified specialists. Russia’s current level of development allows us to make a quantum leap by building new industrial sectors as well as living and working comfortably in harsh Arctic conditions. Above all, this means using “green” technologies.

For example, in recent years the focus for developing the Arctic has suggested the need to develop small-scale nuclear power and also come up with other economically feasible ways to generate energy and hear from renewable sources.

An example of this is a floating nuclear thermal power plant with two reactors, which will become one of the main sources of power for the Chaun-Bilibino power generation system of the Chukotka Autonomous District starting from 2019. This signifies a major innovative contribution by Rosatom scientists and United Shipbuilding Corporation shipbuilders to the new technological development of the Arctic.

New technologies in housing and utility construction as well as energy conservation are in very high demand. The experience of building in permafrost conditions may be applied in other northern countries. These technologies have serious export potential. Modern ways to obtain drinking water and effectively manage waste are also being developed. Such technologies bring us closer to developing hitherto unviable territories and even other planets.

We already need new types of plastics, alloys, fuel and other non-freezing technical liquids as well as fabrics. We need electronics and batteries that work in the extreme cold. We need land and air transport that ordinary citizens can afford and not just large companies. In this way, the goal of the advanced development of the Arctic is motivating our scientists and industry to accelerate scientific and technological progress.

The Arctic is a natural testing ground. The products that have been tested in the Arctic and proved to be reliable will work in any other conditions. This is a unique marketing advantage – the “Arctic seal of approval”. The advanced civilized development of the Arctic could become an impetus for all Russian industry and help to restore its global reputation as being high-tech and reliable.

Wouldn’t such active development of the Arctic lead to environmental problems?

Dmitry Rogozin: We will try our best to avoid such problems. And for this purpose it is essential to have a scientifically grounded assessment of the prospects and risks related to the intensive development of the Arctic. For example, the extraction of biological resources.

We must be able to sense, know and understand ecological boundaries. All steps to develop the Arctic should be evaluated not only in terms of their profitability, but also in terms of their environmental safety for future generations. We strictly adhere to this policy. Russian companies, including mining companies, draw up environmental programmes. For its part, the government constantly monitors their compliance and strict implementation.

We are obliged through international cooperation and through sharing our experience, knowledge and best available technologies to protect the unique Arctic nature from the damage that could be caused as a result of rapid economic development.

Are the opinions of the indigenous people living in Arctic regions taken into account?

Dmitry Rogozin: Of course they are. Over the centuries, Russia has accumulated unique experience in developing the Arctic, which has enabled us to maintain a balance between a region’s ecosystem and the human presence.

Indigenous people are an achievement of our multinational country. Indigenous people pass down crucial skills from generation to generation at the genetic level for how to live and work in the Arctic latitudes.

The opinions of public associations of indigenous people are certainly taken into account in the decision-making process by the State Commission for the Development of the Arctic. A direct dialogue has also been established via the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs. But we still have things to work on in this regard.

The Russian Arctic is developing in many areas. Is there a single state administrative body?

Dmitry Rogozin: This is not an easy question. As I already mentioned, the so-called Arctic zone includes eight regions from four federal districts. Their borders do not coincide with the administrative and territorial delineation of the regions and districts. This is why the state administration of this highly important region is extremely complicated. Nevertheless, a presidential decree specifies that this is all part of the “Arctic zone”, i.e. a unified subject of state administration.

The State Commission for the Development of the Arctic created by the presidential decree in 2015 is a coordinating body or council that meets several times a year to resolve socioeconomic objectives concerning the development of Russia’s Arctic zone. The commission’s function is to coordinate the actions of ministries and agencies, legislative bodies, public associations as well as representatives of business and science.

Systematic and balanced decisions are adopted collectively within the framework of the commission. Their implementation is the responsibility of the sectoral ministries that are connected with Arctic development in one or another. There are also major companies operating in the Arctic.

Thus, a balance of interests and responsibilities has been formed. Ministries and agencies implement the Arctic development concept based on their functional purview. The regional authorities implement their own strategies taking into account the federal agenda. Business earns money. The commission ensures interaction. But there really is no single state administrative body.

Are there plans to establish a single commercial “manager” of the Northern Sea Route that is interested in increasing transport, improving the regularity of transport services, generating profit and, consequently, replenishing the budget of the Russian Federation?

Dmitry Rogozin: Such work is under way. Business representatives who are part of the Business Council under the State Commission for the Development of the Arctic have established a consortium and are jointly working on viable models for the activities of such a commercial organization.

I think that our colleagues will speak about the results of their work at the forum ‘Arctic: Territory of Dialogue’, which will take place in March in Arkhangelsk.

Navigating the Northern Sea Route without an icebreaking fleet is unthinkable. What kind of icebreakers will our country be building?

Dmitry Rogozin: Five to six nuclear-powered icebreakers with capacity of 60–110 MW, six to eight non-nuclear icebreakers with capacity of 25–30 MW and eight to ten non-nuclear icebreakers with capacity of 16–18 MW will be able to support year-round navigation of vessels through the Arctic Ocean as well as their maintenance at ports. This is the minimum required.

The economic activity in the Arctic is already quite busy. And going forward there will be even more ambitious plans for developing natural resources, developing infrastructure and establishing new logistics routes. Accordingly, demand for icebreakers and ice class vessels will only increase.

Construction is currently under way on two diesel-powered multifunctional icebreakers – the Novorossiysk and Viktor Chernomyrdin – with capacity of 16 and 25 MW, respectively. The Viktor Chernomyrdin will be the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker. It was launched towards the end of last year.

In 2012, construction began on a series of three universal nuclear-powered dual-draft icebreakers. In 2016, the Arktika nuclear-powered vessel with capacity of 60 MW was launched. The Sibir and Ural icebreaker series will start being assembled soon. The Murmansk and Vladivostok multifunctional icebreakers were built in 2015.  

In addition, officials are studying the feasibility of building the Leader nuclear-powered icebreaker, project LK-110YA, with capacity of 110 MW as well as the construction of a multifunctional shallow-draft nuclear icebreaker to perform underwater work at fields located on Russia’s continental shelf.

Overall, there are eight linear icebreakers working in the waters of the Northern Sea Route four of which are nuclear-powered (50 Let Pobedy, Yamal, Taymyr and Vaygach) and the other four are diesel-powered (Admiral Makarov, Krasin, Kapitan Khlebnikov and Kapitan Dranitsyn).

Private Russian companies working in the Arctic also have their own icebreaker fleet.

What Russia is really lacking are technical vessels. For instance, we don’t have any powerful cranes or ice navigation drilling vessels.

These are very complex vessels with high added value. Hardly anybody can build vessels of this kind that are capable of operating in severe Arctic conditions. This is a promising area for Russian industry – such a vessel could be used in any waters of the world, but it would have the highest reliability.

Icebreakers by definition have very strong hulls. But the vessels they are accompanying must also have a high ice category too. Is the Russian industry making any preparations to build such vessels?

Dmitry Rogozin: Vessels with ice class categories of Arc4–Arc9 and Icebreaker-6–Icebreaker-9 can operate in the waters of the Northern Sea Route year-round. Vessels with ice class categories lower than Arc4 can operate in the Northern Sea Route waters during the summer and autumn navigation period – from July 1 to November 15.

There are currently around 170 such vessels operating in the Arctic under the Russian flag. This is quite enough for now. If the cargo base increases, business will respond on its own and build more ice class vessels. I hope our shipbuilding industry will only benefit from this.

Incidentally, the cost of building ice class ships is relatively low. Experts estimate the cost increases by roughly ten percent when switching from one category to the next higher ice class level.

Did the sanctions introduced by the United States and European Union affect the construction of the main Arktika nuclear-powered icebreaker?

Dmitry Rogozin: The LK-60 nuclear-powered icebreaker, or 22220 project, is a new generation project. It is an entirely Russian development. It was launched in 2013. Everything in it is new, unique and almost all Russian-made. The electric propulsion, for instance was supplied by Krylovsky Scientific Centre. The turbogenerator unit is new and the reactor unit is new. All the fundamentally essential nodes and materials are Russian-made. It’s not an icebreaker, but a testing ground for the most modern engineering solutions and equipment. And no sanctions can harm the implementation of this project.