Talk #132, 10/30/19


Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 11:30 AM

Location: Southwestern Yacht Club
2702 Qualtrough Street
San Diego, CA 92106 (Point Loma)

Please note that the talk previously scheduled for this date, Prof. Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on the future impact of climate change in California, has been rescheduled to 1/22/20.

Special Topic: The Larry Kull Endowed Student Award in Engineering and Entrepreneurship at USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering
Speaker: Randy Vosti, SAIC (retired)

Click HERE for a letter about Larry Kull and his impact on the Lyncean Group as well as more details about the Award itself.


Main Speaker:  Pete Lobner
SAIC/DS&S (retired)
Chief Technical Blogger (CTB), Lyncean Group of San Diego
Former US Navy nuclear submariner

Topic:  Russia’s Plans for Arctic Development Depend on Marine Nuclear Power

Prior to 1957, marine operations in ice-covered Arctic regions were conducted only by fossil-fueled ice-breaking surface ships, with diesel-electric powered submarines making occasional short-duration forays under the edges of the icepack.

In August 1957, that operational paradigm changed when the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel, the US submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571), conducted the first extended Arctic under-ice mission.  A year later, USS Nautilus became the first vessel to reach the North Pole, making a submerged transit under the pole on 3 August 1958.  Two weeks later, another US nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Skate (SSN-578) made a submerged transit under the North Pole on 11 August 1958, returning in 1959 to become the first submarine to surface at the North Pole on 17 March 1959.  The Soviet icebreaker Lenin, which was the world’s first nuclear-powered surface ship, deployed on its maiden voyage on 15 September 1959.  In November 1959, the first Soviet nuclear-powered submarine, the K-3, Leninsky Komsomol, conducted its initial under-ice voyage.  By 1960, both the US and the Soviet Union were operating a small number of nuclear-powered vessels in the Arctic and building the operational experience needed to greatly expand the deployment of such vessels in the Arctic during the 1960s and 1970s.

Almost six decades later, the US, Russia and the UK routinely operate their nuclear-powered submarines in Arctic waters.  Russia remains the only nation operating nuclear-powered, ice-breaking surface ships to support both military and civilian activities along the Northern Sea Route.

A key driver for the industrial development of the Arctic region is the wealth of natural resources, including oil and natural gas under the Arctic seabed and mineral deposits and other natural resources along the continental slopes bordering the Arctic Ocean.  All of the Arctic nations, which border the Arctic Ocean, have filed Extended Continental Shelf claims in the hopes of expanding their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Arctic. With its fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, supported by a fleet of capable fossil-fueled icebreakers and a new class of armed, icebreaking corvettes, Russia is uniquely capable of defending its EEZ in the Arctic.

Russia has been developing several small nuclear reactors for use in marine non-propulsion applications, primarily for electric power generation, process heat generation and desalination.  The first such marine reactor application is the floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov, which was completed in St. Petersburg in April 2018.  After fueling and testing in Murmansk, the Lomonosov was towed to the a remote city of Pevek, on the Northern Sea Route, arriving in September 2019.   The Lomonosov is expected to be fully operational by 2020.

Other marine applications being developed by Russia include nuclear plant designs that can be used with offshore industrial (i.e., oil & gas) platforms and sea floor-sited reactors that will operate under the Arctic icepack to support a wide range of commercial and military activities.

No other Arctic nations, including the US and Canada, can match Russia’s capability for conducting military and commercial operations in the Arctic.

During the six decades of marine nuclear activities in the Arctic, three Russian nuclear submarines sank in Arctic waters, with two remaining on the bottom today. In addition, Russia has dumped large quantities of radioactive material in Arctic waters, including one scuttled nuclear submarine.  Internationally supported programs are making significant progress in dealing with Russia’s decommissioned, contaminated nuclear vessels and the cleanup of former nuclear facilities on land.  Environmental cleanup of contaminated sites at sea remain in the planning stage.

Albert Einstein attended this Talk
A mysterious Russian presenter joined us at the end of the meeting

To download Pete Lobner’s presentation, click here:
Russian Arctic Nuclear Development

You can download Pete Lobner’s meeting slides by clicking on the following link:
Meeting Slides 10-30-19