Russia 090820 Basic Political Developments

Europe, Russia in Mars exploration deal

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Europe, Russia in Mars exploration deal


The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a deal with its Russian counterpart Roscosmos to cooperate on two Mars exploration projects, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

The deal was inked by Roscosmos head Anatoli Perminov and the ESA's Jean-Jacques Dordain at the Maks aviation and space show outside Moscow, Interfax quoted an unnamed Roscosmos spokesman as saying.

Under the deal, the ESA will use Russia's Proton rocket as part of its Exomars project to send a robotic rover to the Mars surface and buy Russian parts for the rover's power supply system.

The deal will also see Russia's Phobos-Grunt project -- to send a probe to Mars' Phobos moon in October 2009 -- use the ESA's terrestrial communication facilities during its mission.

ESA comprises 16 members of the European Union (EU) plus Norway and Switzerland. Canada takes part in some of its projects under a cooperation agreement.

Russia prepares new Arctic research station

Russia continues its arctic research program with drifting ice stations in the high latitudes. The icebreaker “Yamal” sails out to pick up scientists who have spent nearly a year on an ice floe and to find a suitable place for a new station.

The nuclear powered icebreaker “Yamal” leaves Murmansk today to pick up the Russian scientists who have spent nearly a year on the drifting ice station “North Pole-36” (NP-36). The station was established on an ice floe between the Wrangel Island and the North Pole in September 2008. Since then, the station has drifted some 2500 kilometers and is now approaching Greenland, RIA Novosti reports.

The icebreaker will pick up the 16 scientist, their dogs and 150 tons of equipment. The vessel will then continue its journey to find a suitable ice floe for the next station, which will get the name “North Pole-37”. The station will probably be placed near Severnaya Zemlya off the Taymyr Peninsula.

The first scientific drifting ice station in the world, “North Pole-1” was established in May 1937. Since 1954 Soviet "NP" stations worked continuously, with one to three such stations operating simultaneously each year, according to Wikipedia. In the post-Soviet era, Russian exploration of the Arctic by drifting ice stations was suspended for twelve years, and was resumed in 2003.

Watch video Of preparations on the "Yamal" on

Another nuclear sub for scrapping

The nuclear powered submarine K-496 "Borisgleb" this week made its last trip to the Zvezdochka yard in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, were it will be decommissioned and scrapped.

The dismantling of the vessel will be done with finances from Russian state nuclear power company Rosatom, as well funding from Canada and the USA, Regnum reports.

The vessel - a Kalmar-class (project 667VDR) sub was constructed by the Sevmash company and included in the Russian fleet in 1978. It has been based in the Northern Fleet's Olenya Bay and Saida Bay in the Kola Peninsula, informs.

Timeframe for Sayano-Shushenskaya restoration may be known in a week –minister
MOSCOW/KHAKASIA. Aug 20 (Interfax) - The timeframe for the

restoration of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant,

damaged in an accident on Monday, could be known in a week, Energy

Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters.

"I think the possible timeframe for the plant to resume operations

might be clear in a week," he said.

The debris left by the accident will first have to be cleared in

order to ascertain the true extent of the damage, Shmatko said. But the

new equipment will take time to assemble, and the restoration will be

gradual, he said.

Shmatko earlier said the plant's capacity, currently 6.4 gigawatt,

could be increased to 7.3 gigawatt. The Energy Ministry estimates it

will cost 40 billion rubles to restore the plant.
Death Toll in RusHydro Dam Accident Climbs to 17, Interfax Says

By Brad Cook

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The death toll from the Aug. 17 accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric station in Siberia reached 17 after Russian rescue workers found another body today, Interfax said.

Dozens of workers at the OAO RusHydro dam are still missing, the Russian news service said, citing the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Last Updated: August 20, 2009 00:39 EDT

Siberian dam disaster body count reaches 17 with 58 more missing

KHAKASIA, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - The official death toll from an accident four days ago at Russia's largest hydropower plant in south Siberia reached 17 on Thursday, with another 58 people still unaccounted for, rescuers said on Thursday.

The latest two bodies were found in the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant's ninth generating unit, a spokesperson for the rescue team said.

The search for the missing people is continuing, and water is being continually pumped out of the turbine room which was flooded early on Monday morning after an explosion, but the chances of finding anyone else alive are now believed to be very low.

The shutdown of the plant on the Yenisei River in the Khakasia Republic, built in 1978, has caused a severe energy shortfall in the region, forcing local factories to turn to temporary supplies. The blast also released a large slick of insulating oil from the plant's transformers, threatening the river's fish.

RusHydro, the plant's owner, has said the damage could take up to two years to repair, and Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko estimated the cost at at least 40 billion rubles ($1.2 billion).

The victims' families have threatened to sue RusHydro over the accident, accusing it of putting profits ahead of safety in failing to update and replace ageing equipment, and have demanded extra compensation.

The relatives met with Khakasia Governor Viktor Zimin on Thursday, and demanded that the offered compensation of 1 million rubles ($31,000) be raised tenfold.

Services were held in churches throughout the republic on Wednesday in memory of the victims.

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