Tag Archives: Royal Academy of Engineering

Russia approves $65 billion tunnel beneath Bering Strait connecting Asia with North America

A bridge or tunnel of some sorts which physically connects Asia with North America through the Bering Strait has been considered for many years now, but apparently each proposed project for such a titanic engineering feat has up to now remained in the fantasy stage. Recently, the Russian government put its seal of approval for the construction of the world’s longest tunnel spanning the Bering Straight at 64 miles (103 km), a project financially estimated at $65 billion today.

In 1905, Tsar Nicholas II dreamed of a bridge that would link North American with Asia and provide a direct rail route from Russia to the US. Nothing of the sorts could’ve been possible with the technology available a century ago, but the idea wasn’t bad at all, and hopefully it will become a reality in the not too distant future.

The center piece of the project will be a 65-mile-long tunnel, two times longer that the British Channel Tunnel, that would pass underneath the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands in the Bering Strait, built in three sections and crossing the International Date Line, reconnecting the two land masses in the process.

Details released to the general public are still scarce, it’s pretty clear however that the tunnel would offer incredible economical and political advantages. The tunnel would have a highway, high-speed rail tracks, a fiber optic network and pipelines for gas and oil. The railway would actually connect the Siberian interior with the US east coast, resulting in a railway network across 3/4 of the Northern Hemisphere.

Besides the obvious infrastructure advantages, the tunnel would also be responsible for an impressive energy generation. Proposed tidal energy plants could provide 10 gigawatts of energy and a string of wind power fields could churn a constant supply of clean energy.

The private public partnership project, first shelved in 2007 and recently accepted by the Kremlin, will see the light of the day after good time though. It will take 15 years alone for the tunnel to be completed, theoretically, while the railway system which needs to be complemented on both sides of the Bering Strait might be complete by 2045. When and if ever operational though, it would mean a passenger will be able to board a train in London and catch a direct drip to New York – amazing by all means!

Despite such an ambitious project has been approved by the Russian government, on the US side, there doesn’t seem to be too much commotion around it, who seem to somewhat confirm the deal, but nothing really in an official manner. One thing’s certain though – the Russian’s build big!

The world may be too dependent on GPS, report says

Besides their evident telecommunications value, satellites also pose enormous benefits when synchronization and navigation are concerned, available and more and more used to the common public through GNSS (global navigation satellite system) or the US based GPS (global positioning system). However, a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK warns that the nation has become overly reliant on the system, which academicians consider it to be very vulnerable and prone to natural hazards (solar flares) or deliberate attacks (terrorist endeavors).

Dr Martyn Thomas, who chaired the group that wrote the report, said: “We’re not saying that the sky is about to fall in; we’re not saying there’s a calamity around the corner.

“What we’re saying is that there is a growing interdependence between systems that people think are backing each other up. And it might well be that if a number these systems fail simultaneously, it will cause commercial damage or just conceivably loss of life. This is wholly avoidable.”

Remember, that GPS applications aren’t limited to simple, though widespread, auto-navigation or as personal mapping; they’re used by manufacturing industries, supply chains, drilling oil, various other logistics, banks, and virtually anything you can imagine. It’s not a UK based dependency either, it’s a fact well known applying to the whole world. The failure of such a system might indeed deem severe economic and social consequences.

Just how much? Let’s just stick to money-wise -the European Commission, in a recent update on its forthcoming Galileo sat-nav network, estimated that about 6-7% of Europe’s GDP, approximately 800bn euros (£690bn) annually, was now dependent in some way on GNSS data.

“The deployment of Europe’s Galileo system will greatly improve the resilience of the combined GPS/Galileo system, but many of the vulnerabilities we have identified in this report will remain,” says Dr Thomas.

“No-one has a complete picture of the many ways in which we have become dependent on weak signals 12,000 miles above us.”

The report goes on to suggest some solutions for backing-up and improving the signal, such that calamities might be avoided, such as awareness campaign so that users might begin to back-up their signals, R&D investments for new signal-enhancing technology, and probably the most practical – a plea to the UK government to ban jamming equipment. This kind of equipment can be bought for as low as 30$ and are used mostly by criminals to disrupt tracking signals for jacked cars.

I think the subjects begs for an interesting question to be pondered, how many of you know how to read a map?