By Mark Halper
Posting in Design
Crew will mine, crush and process ore way down below ocean, working 2 months aboard luxury hotel-like mega craft. At deep sea depth, showers should have plenty of pressure! Any objections?
But talk about thinking big. Or, pardon the pun, about deep thinking.
China has revealed plans to send a luxurious, hotel-like, nuclear propelled massive underwater mining station to the depths of the Pacific, where it will drill for oil, gold, copper, zinc, lead and other metals smack dab on the seabed.
According to the South China Morning Post (free 2-week registration required), the China Ship Scientific Research Center's mega-craft will house 33 "aquanauts" for 2 months at a time. It will not only drill for riches, but will also process the metals right there, way down below the ocean.
The paper reports:
Equipped with a nuclear reactor, the station would be able to support 33 crewmen for up to two months at a time.
"If a submersible were a plane, this station would be an aircraft carrier," Ma Xiangneng , a researcher with the project, told China National Radio. "The station will be an underwater palace, with showers, a living room and laboratories."
The designs show the station resembling a nuclear submarine, with two propeller fans at the tail. It would measure 60.2 metres long, 15.8 metres wide and 9.7 metres tall, weighing about 2,600 tonnes.
Like a space station, the deep-sea station would have multiple ports to support the docking of smaller manned or unmanned vessels.
Researchers such as Ma have said the station's main purpose would be deep-sea mining. With an underwater "mother ship" hovering above the station, located just below the surface and undisturbed by weather conditions, mining facilities could be built much more quickly and cheaply than if surface ships were used.
It's not clear from the story exactly how deep the floating roustabouts will plunge. It looks like anywhere from between 1,000 meters to 8,000 meters - nearly 5 miles. (At those depths, the showers in the luxury cabins should have plenty of pressure!).
The China Ship Scientific Research Center built a much smaller, manned submersible that reached a depth of over 7,000 meters in the Western Pacific's Marianas Trench last month, the paper notes. It seems that new titanium alloys are strong enough to withstand the forces there - alloys that did not exist when CSSRC started the project in the 1990s.
CSSRC hopes to build a prototype by 2015 that can handle a crew of 12 on an 18-day dive. Experts think the 33-crew, 2-month mega miner won't be ready until around 2030.
That should give Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior plenty of time to maneuver into place.
Photos: East Diamante volcano from Bob Embley, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Bottlenose dolphins from M. Henko, NOAA.
Jul 10, 2012
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great, a military totalitarian power with few to no problems mashing human rights, worker rights, and environmental issues is going for it all far down away from enemy eyes -- and with nuclear yet. thank God the Communists are nothing like the Capitalists.
I would like to see the US get there first. We were first to the moon and overtook Sputnik. Mining the ocean would be much easier than mining asteroids. We have no need to sign treaties like LOST which are contrary to our national self interest. The US does more for the UN than we get in return. We have more Pacific shoreline than China and are entitled to it. We liberated the Marianas from the Japanese while Japan was making slaves out of the Chinese. Now which dolphin hugger wants to argue with me? This can be done cleanly and at a profit if carefully planned. I agree that bottom based manned rigs are safer than surface rigs. The new Chinese are correct. Look what happened with the deepwater horizon. Those 11 men's bodies are not coming back.
The UN should determine where this type of future "bottom mining' will be allowed and what mitigation is required "after" an area is mined to return it to a stable ecological state after it has been mined; otherwise this process will be nothing but underwater "strip" mining with no oversight, destroying the ocean floor and everything that lives on or above it.
Trawlers do a lot of damage to the sea floor and there is no regulation about that. The oceans have a lot of resources but the enviroment is delicate and that effects all of us.
Contrary to what the black helicopter conspiracy theory crowd would have us believe, the UN only has as much authority as the Security Council votes to enforce. Yes, sea floor mining should be regulated to protect the ocean ecology. This would be an ideal place for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea except 1 country that is expected to do a lot of sea floor mining hasn't signed the treaty - the USA. China has.