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Home → November, 2022

Monthly Archives: November 2022 − News & Stories


Ath­lets from Barents­burg and Lon­gye­ar­by­en met for com­pe­ti­ti­on

It should be a mat­ter of cour­se, but it isn’t at at time when the Rus­si­an war of aggres­si­on still rages in the Ukrai­ne: despi­te of all dis­trust bet­ween Rus­sia and the wes­tern world on various levels, ath­lets from Lon­gye­ar­by­en went to Barents­burg on Sun­day to meet the local ath­le­tes the­re for a sport com­pe­ti­ti­on. The sports­peo­p­le from Lon­gye­ar­by­en got trans­port to Barents­burg with the governor’s ship Polar­sys­sel and got a fri­end­ly wel­co­me in Barents­burg, befo­re they enga­ged in com­pe­ti­ti­ons within bad­min­ton, table ten­nis, chess, flo­or­ball, vol­ley­ball and foot­ball.

Football, Barentsburg

Foot­ball match in Barents­burg (archi­ve image, 2019).

If you are inte­res­ted in the results, you can find them in more detail in Sval­bard­pos­ten but the bot­tom­li­ne adds an addi­tio­nal sur­pri­se to the who­le thing: the ath­lets from Lon­gye­ar­by­en won all com­pe­ti­ti­ons.

But the most important thing is obvious­ly that peo­p­le from both sides met in a peaceful and even fri­end­ly way, roun­ding the event off with a ban­quet.

Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy: sci­ence or spy­ing?

Inter­na­tio­nal poli­tics tou­ch­ing Sval­bard remain hea­vi­ly affec­ted by the dif­fi­cult rela­ti­onship to Rus­sia. Curr­ent­ly, a Rus­si­an appli­ca­ti­on filed by the Rus­si­an embas­sy in Oslo on behalf of the Inti­tu­te for mari­ne bio­lo­gy in Mur­mansk is caus­ing some dis­cus­sion among­st Nor­we­gi­an secu­ri­ty experts and poli­ti­ci­ans. The Mur­mansk insti­tu­te wants to car­ry out a rese­arch voya­ge with the ves­sel Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy from 15 Decem­ber 2022 to 10 Janu­ary 2023, with a major pro­por­ti­on of the time spent in Sval­bard waters.

Professor Molchanov, Longyearbyen

Rus­si­an ships were often char­ted by wes­tern com­pa­nies and insti­tu­ti­ons during bet­ter years in the past. Here we see MV Pro­fes­sor Molch­a­nov in Advent­fjord – in 2013, years after she was released from char­ter con­tracts with wes­tern expe­di­ti­on crui­se com­pa­nies
(archi­ve image, illus­tra­ti­on only).

Experts have told the Nor­we­gi­an news web­site NRK that it would be nai­ve to assu­me that real sci­ence would be the only pur­po­se of the trip. Offi­ci­al­ly, the voya­ge is meant to gather water and bot­tom samples in Sval­bard waters and the Barents Sea and experts don’t doubt that this kind of rese­arch will actual­ly be car­ri­ed out – but not as the only mis­si­on of the Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy. Secu­ri­ty poli­tics experts say that the insti­tu­te for mari­ne bio­lo­gy in Mur­mansk has strong con­nec­tions to the Rus­si­an navy, inclu­ding a pro­gram­me to train wha­les and seals for mili­ta­ry pur­po­ses. They say that the insi­tu­te is “not an inno­cent sci­en­ti­fic play­er, but a civi­li­an insti­tu­ti­on with a strong mili­ta­ry aspect”, and one would have to expect the sche­du­led Sval­bard crui­se to include a non-sci­en­ti­fic com­po­nent. This might be any­whe­re within sabo­ta­ge and spy­ing or trans­port of mili­ta­ry goods and per­so­nell, for exam­p­le to Barents­burg, which the ves­sel is sche­du­led to visit during the crui­se. This could be done tog­e­ther with a sci­en­ti­fic pro­gram­me which in its­elf inde­ed might be harm­less. In ear­lier years, the Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy was also used by wes­tern sci­en­tists, for exam­p­le from UNIS, for rese­arch in Sval­bard.

Also other Rus­si­an “sci­en­ti­fic” ves­sels have recent­ly been seen near important Nor­we­gi­an infra­struc­tu­re, for exam­p­le of the oil and gas indus­try, and experts expect the infor­ma­ti­on gathe­red by them to be poli­ti­cal rather than sci­en­ti­fic, at least in part. Ano­ther pur­po­se of the­se acti­vi­ties may be to keep Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties such as the coast­guard busy to wear them out over time.

As a con­clu­si­on, the experts demand the rejec­tion of the appli­ca­ti­on from Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­ci­ans, which is said to be legal­ly pos­si­ble withe the 12 mile zone of Sval­bard but more dif­fi­cult out­side.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: power sup­p­ly wit­hout coal from 2023

One thing is for sure: Lon­gye­ar­by­en needs a new ener­gy sys­tem. The old coal power plant is, well, exact­ly that: a) old and b) a coal power plant. On Wed­nes­day, an admi­nis­tra­ti­ve board within the com­mu­ni­ty admi­nis­tra­ti­on of Lon­gye­ar­by­en con­firm­ed an ear­lier decis­i­on of the com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil (Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re) to run Longyearbyen’s ener­gy sup­p­ly wit­hout coal from late 2023.

But anyo­ne who expects a modern, cli­ma­te-neu­tral ener­gy sup­p­ly is in for a dis­ap­point­ment: to start with, ener­gy will be sup­pli­ed by a die­sel-based power sta­ti­on, which will be an upgraded ver­si­on of today’s stand­by power plant. A cli­ma­te-neu­tral solu­ti­on is, howe­ver, who Lon­gye­ar­by­en wants and needs on the long term: green­house gas emis­si­ons are to be redu­ced by 70-80 % until 2030. The plan is to achie­ve this with a mix of tech­no­lo­gies likely to include pho­to­vol­taics, wind and bat­tery-based ener­gy sto­rage solu­ti­ons.

Coal power station, Longyearbyen

The coal power sta­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The dis­cus­sion about a new solu­ti­on is almost as old as the power plant its­elf.

But cli­ma­te pro­tec­tion is not the reason for the move from coal to die­sel. Accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten, secu­ri­ty of sup­p­ly is one main reason. Power cuts are a rather well-known phe­no­me­non in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The latest one was just two days ago on Wed­nes­day in the late after­noon. It las­ted, with a bit of on and off, for 1.5 hours. Addi­tio­nal­ly it is said that the fur­ther ope­ra­ti­on of the coal power plant would requi­re incre­asing main­tainan­ce and finan­cial efforts, and the working con­di­ti­ons for the staff are not up to date.

Based on the expec­ted deve­lo­p­ment of ener­gy pri­ces, howe­ver, the chan­ge to die­sel is expec­ted to bring an increase of some­thing near 14 % to con­su­mers in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It does not sur­pri­se that Wednesday’s con­fir­ma­ti­on of the decis­i­on was met with a loud deba­te in local social media groups in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re are many who are proud of Longyearbyen’s coal mining histo­ry and many doubt that impor­ted die­sel, bought on poten­ti­al­ly tur­bu­lent world mar­kets, is a bet­ter solu­ti­on than local coal.

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