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揭开俄罗斯北极“冰山项目”的神秘面纱

更新时间:2017-12-16 13:04:58 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why Russia is sending robotic submarines to the Arctic
揭开俄罗斯北极“冰山项目”的神秘面纱

The Arctic: the smallest of Earth’s five oceans, with icy waters and dagger-like winds, is home to some of the most unforgiving conditions on the planet.

北冰洋:地球五大洋中最小的海洋,这里冰封雪飘,风刀霜剑,堪称地球上自然环境最为严酷的地方之一。

But far below the skin of sea ice that waxes and wanes with the seasons, this inhospitable ocean is hiding a treasure trove of natural resources – one that’s largely untapped by mankind.

但是在随着季节封冻或消融的海冰之下,这片看似荒芜的海洋隐藏着一个自然资源的宝库——而且一块是人类基本上未曾涉足的宝库。

The Arctic Ocean is estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil, and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas – accounting for 16-26% of the Earth’s undiscovered reserves. And there’s a superpower scrambling to beat all others in the race to exploit this chilly mother lode of polar resources: Russia.

据估计,北冰洋蕴藏有数十亿桶石油和数万亿立方英尺的天然气——占地球未发现储量的16-26%。有一个超级大国急切地想要打败所有其他竞争对手,来开发这片酷寒极地上的丰富资源,这就是俄罗斯。

Decades after the Soviet Union fell, Russia embarked on a mission to drill deep into the Arctic seabed, sending a fleet of underwater robots and unmanned submarines into the Earth’s harshest waters.

在苏联解体几十年后,俄罗斯启动了一项在北冰洋海底进行钻探的任务,派出了一队水下机器人和无人潜艇进入这片地球上环境最为恶劣的海域。

And now, after years of drilling in the area, the country – which saw oil and natural gas account for 68% of its exports in 2013 – plans to use never-before-seen technology to take its mission to the next level.

而现在,在这片海域进行了数年的钻探后,2013年石油和天然气占总出口额68%的俄罗斯,计划利用前所未有的技术将这项任务提升到一个新的水平。

Russia already extracts around 5.5 million tons of oil annually from its only operating oil field in the Arctic, but much of the sea is covered by a thick sheet of ice year-round, making exploitation by surface vessels impossible. Enter Russia’s Project Iceberg: an ambitious plan to use extreme technology for equally extreme conditions. We talked to experts who shone a light on Russia’s designs on the Arctic.

现在俄罗斯从他们在北冰洋经营的唯一一座油田中每年开采大约550万吨的石油,但是大部分的北冰洋海面全年都覆盖着厚厚的冰层,无法使用水面船只进行开采。由此而来的是俄罗斯的"冰山计划"(Project Iceberg):一个雄心勃勃的项目,在极端条件下使用极端技术。 我们采访到了一些专家,他们揭开了俄罗斯的北冰洋大计划的面纱。

***

The race for the Arctic’s precious resources isn’t new. The hoard of gas and oil is surrounded by powerful nations – Russia, Denmark, Norway, the US and Canada – and they all want a piece of the pie.

对北冰洋珍贵资源的争夺并不是新鲜事。那里的天然气和石油储备被强大的国家包围——俄罗斯、丹麦、挪威、美国和加拿大——各个国家都想分一杯羹。

Russia itself has been drilling in the Arctic Circle for decades. In August 2007, it made a dangerous and globally provocative move by sending two Russian mini-submarines 4,200m (14,000ft) below the North Pole to plant a rust-proof titanium flag on the seabed to stake a claim on the territory.

俄罗斯在北极圈内的钻探活动已经进行了几十年。2007年8月,两艘俄罗斯微型潜艇在北极点下方4,200米(14,000英尺)的海底插上了一面不会生锈的钛质旗帜,作为他们对该地域的领土声明。这是一个危险的并具有全球性挑衅意义的行动。

Now, in 2017, the global community is keeping a close eye on Russia as it seeks to expand its grip and influence on Arctic waters – and the valuable resources within. For Russia, oil and natural gas are key sources of both energy and income. Project Iceberg could be the nation’s power play to make sure it keeps a regional monopoly on those two resources.

现在到了2017年,全球社会正在密切关注俄罗斯,因为它正试图扩大其对北冰洋海域以及其蕴含的丰富资源的控制力和影响力。对于俄罗斯来说,石油和天然气是其能源和收入的重要来源。"冰山"计划将是其国家权力的展现,以确保它在此区域保持对石油和天然气的垄断。

Russia is already expanding its military might in the Arctic, building more bases in the area after opening several earlier this year. In April, BBC journalists were the first foreign journalists allowed to film Russia’s military brigade stationed in the Arctic, close to the Finnish border. The increased military presence in the region is a sign of Russia’s growing Arctic ambitions at a time when receding ice is making the energy resources it holds more accessible than ever.

俄罗斯正在北极进一步增强其军事力量,在今年早些时候开设数个基地之后,他们还在该地区建设更多的基地。 今年四月,BBC记者成为了第一批被允许拍摄驻扎在北极圈内靠近芬兰边界的俄罗斯部队的外国记者。俄罗斯在该地区逐步强化的军事存在是其对北冰洋的野心日益增长的标志之一,而正在消融的冰盖使他们能够比以前更容易地开发在其占据地域内所蕴含的能源。

In much the same way as extracting oil from the North Sea was considered to be an engineering challenge in the 1970s as nobody had operated drilling platforms so far north in such difficult weather conditions before, the Arctic poses similar barriers today. With water up to 5km (3.1 miles) deep in places and largely covered with ice, the Arctic is arguably the hardest place in the world to drill for oil.

类似于在20世纪70年代,当时从北海开采石油被认为是一个工程挑战,在此之前没有人能够在这样严酷的天气条件下运营钻井平台,而北冰洋在今天也是类似的障碍。局部海水深度达5公里(3.1英里),而且大部分由冰层覆盖,北冰洋可能是世界上最难钻探石油的地方。

But then, nobody has attempted anything like Project Iceberg before.

但是,从来没有人做过任何类似于"冰山"计划这样的尝试。

The Foundation for Advanced Studies, the Russian equivalent of America’s Darpa, states it is planning “fully autonomous underwater, under-ice, development of hydrocarbon fields in the Arctic seas with severe ice conditions”. In other words: oil-seeking robotic submarines.

俄罗斯的"高级研究基金会"是相当于美国国防高等研究计划署(DARPA)的机构,他们最近表示正在计划"在极端海冰条件中实现对北极冰下深海油气田的完全自动开发"。换句话说就是:机器人探油潜艇。

But there are some who suggest Iceberg’s stated goals are unrealistic – and that they may be a smokescreen for the development of military systems that can be deployed under the ice.

但也有人认为,"冰山"计划公开目标是不切实际的——而它们可能是为了掩饰研发可在冰下部署的军事系统而故意放出的烟幕。

What is almost certain is that the project will add muscle to Russia’s vast territorial claims in the Arctic, which are currently under consideration by the UN.

几乎可以肯定的是,这个计划将增强俄罗斯在北冰洋地区主张领土主权的力量,而这一主张目前仍在联合国的考量之中。

***

The centrepiece of Iceberg is the 182m-long (600 ft) Belgorod, the largest nuclear submarine ever built. The Belgorod will carry out underwater surveys and lay communication cables under the ice, but its main role will be to act as a mothership for a flotilla of smaller submarines.

"冰山"计划的核心是182米长的核潜艇贝尔戈罗德号(Belgorod),它将成为人类历史上建造的最大的核潜艇。贝尔戈罗德号将执行的任务包括水下考察和冰下布设通讯线路,但它的主要角色将是作为一支小型潜艇舰队的母船。

“The Belgorod submarine is a platform for deployment of various systems, including ones that do not yet exist,” says Vadim Kozyulin, a defence analyst at PIR Centre, a thinktank focusing on security issues.

"贝尔戈罗德号潜艇是多个系统的搭载平台,包括那些尚未完成的系统。"防务分析师瓦蒂姆·库兹尤林(Vadim Kozyulin)说。他任职于PIR中心,一家专注于安全问题的智库。

This is the reason for the sub’s enormous size: a new 30m (100 ft) section has been added with docking facilities for both manned and unmanned submarines.

这艘潜艇如此庞大的原因是:新加入了一个长30米(100英尺)的舱段,作为载人和无人潜艇的坞舱。

But perhaps the most ambitious part of Project Iceberg are the plans for the word’s first underwater nuclear power plants to act as pitstops for the swarms of submarines that will be deployed.

但"冰山"计划中最雄心勃勃的部分大概是建造世界上第一批水下核电站,作为将要部署的潜艇群的补给站。

These underwater power stations will sit on the sea bed and act as recharging points for passing unmanned subs. The current design is for a 24-megawatt reactor with a lifetime of 25 years. Each one will operate almost entirely autonomously with technicians only visiting once a year for routine maintenance.

这些水下电站将在深海坐底,并为通过的无人潜艇充电。目前的设计包括一座功率为24兆瓦的反应堆,设计寿命为25年。每个电站都几乎是完全自动操作,技术人员每年只需进行一次常规维护。

But Russia has a poor record on nuclear safety at sea, having lost seven nuclear submarines since 1961, some of them because of reactor problems. Accidents on board vessels operated by the former Soviet Union account for 14 of the most deadly nuclear incidents to have occurred at sea. In one case the entire sub was exposed to high radiation levels, while another suffered a loss of coolant and a partial reactor meltdown. One such accident was dramatised in the Hollywood movie K-19: The Widowmaker.

但俄罗斯在海上核安全方面的成绩很差,自1961年以来他们共有七艘核潜艇失事沉没,其中一些是由于反应堆的故障导致的。在最致命的海上核事故中,前苏联船舰占了14个名额。在其中一次事故里,整艘潜艇被暴露在高水平辐射中,而另一次则是反应堆失去冷却导致部分反应堆熔化。好莱坞电影《K-19:寡妇制造者》将一次这样的事故搬上了戏剧舞台。

Russian power company Nikiet actually suggests that having no human operators will improve safety. No humans means less risk of human errors like the one which lead to the Chernobyl disaster, where operators overrode the safety systems that would have shut the reactor down.

俄罗斯能源公司"电力工程研究设计院"(Nikiet)认为自动化无人操作能够改善安全性。无人操作意味着降低人为错误的风险——类似于引发切尔诺贝利核灾的那种错误。当时工作人员越权操作,使能够关闭反应堆的安全系统无法发生效用。

“My sense is that much of the nuclear technology proposed here is mature and well understood,” says William Nuttall, professor of energy at The Open University in the UK.

英国开放大学(The Open University)的能源教授威廉·纳托(William Nuttall)说:"我感觉计划涉及的原子能技术大部分都已经成熟,并已经被广泛理解了。"

Eugene Shwageraus of Cambridge University’s Nuclear Energy Centre says that while the reactor might be unmanned, it could still be supervised, and in that sense it would be similar to many modern reactors which require little operator engagement day-to-day.

剑桥大学核能源中心的尤金·萨瓦格劳斯(Eugene Shwageraus)说虽然这种反应堆可以无人操作,但仍然可以被监控,这样就很像现代的很多反应堆,并不需要每日有人操作。

“Today’s reactors are already quite ‘autonomous’, producing power 24/7 with reactor operators just observing the plant diagnostic instruments’ readings,” says Shwageraus.

萨瓦格劳斯说:"如今的反应堆已经非常'自动',能够持续工作,而反应堆操作者只需要监控发电厂仪表的读数就可以了。"

The underwater reactors are said to be at an advanced stage of development, with the aim of having the first one operational by 2020. And while there will be some humans involved in this aspect of Project Iceberg, many other routine operations will be carried out by robots alone.

据说这种水下反应堆已经处于开发后期阶段,目标是在2020年之前将第一座反应堆投入使用。虽然将有一些人参与与"冰山"项目相关方面的工作,但是其他的许多常规操作将由机器人单独进行。

The workhorses will be deepwater unmanned submarines or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). AUVs are currently used in small numbers by many nations, and generally under close operator control rather than roving freely. Russia has previously lagged in this area, but they seem to be catching up.

主要的工作单位将是无人深潜器或自主水下航行器(AUV)。目前许多国家都已少量使用AUV,并且通常会由操作人员紧密监视并操控,而不是自主航行。 俄罗斯之前在这方面有所落后,但他们似乎正在迎头赶上。

The Harpsichord-2R-PM AUV has been developed for Iceberg, and is intended to be the forerunner of a whole family of different underwater vehicles. This two-tonne, 6m-long (20ft) torpedo-like craft is currently being tested in the Black Sea but has also being used to help in the recovery of crashed aircraft. In 2009, one of these AUV’s located a Russian Navy plane, which had crashed killing all 11 people on board during a training flight. The plane had come down in the sea off Sakhalin, a Russian island near Japan, but the search on the surface was hampered by ice and severe weather. The AUV’s ability to operate by itself beneath the waves allowed it to successfully recover the black box flight recorders needed to help determine the cause of the crash.

型号为"羽管键琴-2R-PM"的AUV是专门为"冰山"计划而开发的,在这一型号基础上还将开发出一系列不同的水下航行器。该航行器重两吨,长6米(20英尺),呈鱼雷状,目前正在黑海进行试航,但也被用来帮助寻找坠毁的飞机。2009年时,一台该型号的AUV找到了一架俄罗斯海军飞机,这架飞机在一次训练飞行中失事,机上所有11人均遇难。这架飞机在靠近日本的俄罗斯萨哈林岛(Sakhalin)附近海域坠毁,但由于海冰和恶劣天气的原因,海上搜索工作受到阻碍。AUV在水面下工作的能力使其能够成功找到所需的黑匣子飞行记录器,从而帮助确定坠机原因。

While AUVs are often already used for underwater surveying, there is no precedent for using them to drill on the sea bed. Igor Vilnit, head of Russia’s largest submarine design company the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering, claims they are on course to have a working AUV drill in action in as little as five years.

虽然AUV常被用于水下探索,但是并没有使用它们在海床上进行钻探的先例。俄罗斯最大的潜艇设计公司红宝石海洋工程中央设计局(Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering)局长伊戈尔·维尔尼特(Igor Vilnit)声称,他们正在研发可以实际运作的钻探AUV,并力争在短短五年内投入使用。

Amid all this drilling and underwater exploration, though, there are bigger changes afoot that extend beyond even the simmering political tensions. Climate change is hastening the melting of the Arctic’s ice caps – this presents a slew of challenges for the indigenous peoples who call the region home, as well as for wildlife, like polar bears.

在这些钻探和水下勘探的行动之外,更大的变化正在发生,这一变化甚至超越了暗流汹涌的政治紧张局势。气候变化正在加速北极冰盖的融化——对于那些把以此为家的土著人以及北极熊等野生动物而言,这带来了一系列的挑战。

But as rising temperatures melt the Arctic ice cap, leaving the region more hospitable and accessible, climate change is also likely to exacerbate the political turmoil in the area too.

但随着上升的气温消融了北极冰盖,使得这片地区更方便抵达也更容易生存,气候的变化也很可能加剧这一地区的政治动荡。

***

At a conference in March, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said development of the Arctic region would help to build neighbourly relations with surrounding states and that it should be a "territory of peace and cooperation".  But this is hardly consistent with other Russian activity in the area.

俄罗斯副总理迪米特里·罗戈津(Dmitry Rogozin)在3月份的一次会议上表示,北极地区的发展将有助于与周边国家建立睦邻关系,该地区应当成为"和平与合作的土地"。但这与俄罗斯在该地区的其他活动并不一致。

Some 50 former Soviet Arctic military bases have recently been reactivated. The Russian army has new Arctic Brigades, and showed off special military vehicles for polar operations in this year’s May Day parade. Russia‘s Northern Fleet is also to get its own advanced icebreaker, as well as “ice capable” patrol vessels, essentially mini-icebreakers armed with anti-ship missiles.

近来有约50座前苏联部署在北极地区的军事基地被重新启用。俄罗斯军队新编了若干个极地部队(Arctic Brigades),并在今年的五一节游行中展示了极地作战的特种车辆。俄罗斯北方舰队(Northern Fleet)也将获得自己的核动力破冰船,以及具备"冰海能力"的巡逻舰,本质上是配备反舰导弹的小型破冰船。

Project Iceberg is also going ahead in the face of sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia in the wake of its annexation of Crimea. The sanctions restricted the access that Russia’s oil and gas companies had to the sort of foreign finance and technology needed to develop wells in the difficult Arctic environment. Instead Russia has chosen to go it alone. Earlier this year the country began a complex horizontal drilling operation from a remote peninsula on the edge of the Laptev Sea to reach oil reserves up to 15km (9.3 miles) under the frozen ocean.

在吞并克里米亚(Crimea)之后,虽然面对西方国家对俄罗斯的制裁,"冰山"计划仍在继续。 制裁措施限制了俄罗斯的石油与天然气公司在艰苦的北极环境中开发钻井所需的外国资金和技术。与之相对应,俄罗斯选择了独自前行。在今年早些时候,该国在拉普捷夫海(Laptev Sea)的一个偏远半岛开始了复杂的水平钻探作业,并成功开采到了位于冰冻海洋下15公里(9.3英里)深处的油田。

But Kozyulin is dubious about the chain of underwater nuclear recharging stations that are planned under Project Iceberg, calling them “too fantastic”. He asks why, if this is supposedly a commercial drilling operation, are Gazprom or one of Russia’s other oil companies not involved? Kozyulin finds it easier to believe Iceberg’s true purpose is a military one. The underwater water reactors might, for example, be used to power Russia’s planned sonar fence, known as Harmony, which detects and tracks Nato submarines.

但是,库兹尤林对"冰山"计划中的水下核反应堆充电站群组持怀疑态度,认为这个"过于幻想"。他问,如果这是一个商业钻井作业,俄罗斯天然气工业股份公司(Gazprom)或者俄罗斯的其他石油公司有没有参与呢? 库兹尤林认为"冰山"计划的真正面目更可能是为了军事目的。例如,水下反应堆可能被用来为俄罗斯计划中的声纳监控网提供动力,这种监控网被称为"和声"(Harmony),被用来探测并跟踪北约潜艇。

Russia is pursuing claims for an expanded underwater territory in the Arctic with the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. These claims conflict with those of other nations including Canada, says Stephen Blank, a Russia expert at the American Foreign Policy Council. Russia has had some success with UN claims in the past.

俄罗斯正在联合国大陆架界限委员会(Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf)寻求支持,以实现在北冰洋扩大水下领土的主张。美国外交政策委员会(American Foreign Policy Council)的俄罗斯专家史蒂芬·布兰克(Stephen Blank)说,这些主张与包括加拿大在内的其他国家的主张相冲突。过去,俄罗斯的这方面要求曾在联合国取得过一些成功。

“The Commission gave Russia the right to extensive holdings in the Sea of Okhotsk (in the Western Pacific) in 2013,” says Blank. “Moscow promptly converted it into an exclusive naval bastion and preserve for its energy companies.  That would likely serve as a precedent regarding the Arctic.”

布兰克说:"委员会曾经在2013年将在(西太平洋的)鄂霍次克海(Okhotsk)的多方面权利赋予俄罗斯。而莫斯科迅速将其转化为专属的海上壁垒,并将其留给自己的能源公司独占,这可能会作为北冰洋事务的先例。"

Blank believes the Russian military build-up is due to fears that other nations might try to seize the energy resources in the Arctic first.

布兰克认为,俄罗斯为此增加的军力是出于担心其他国家可能会抢先试图夺取北极地区的能源矿藏。

“It would not surprise me if they have also had a secret deep-water deployment of some sort for some time,” says Blank.

布兰克说:"如果他们在某种程度上已经在进行某种秘密的深水军事部署,这也不会令我惊奇。"

It is hard to tell if the Iceberg plan to exploit Arctic gas and oil is realistic, or whether Russia simply wants to secure the territory so that it can exploit it at some time in the future.

很难说试图开采北冰洋天然气和石油的"冰山"计划是否现实可行,或者俄罗斯是否只是想要保障这片地带,以便在将来某个时候能够再利用它。

What nobody should doubt is Russia’s determination that if anyone is to profit from the Arctic, it will be them.

无可怀疑的是,俄罗斯已经决心,只有他们才能够从北冰洋获利。

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