General Dynamics, builders of the United States military nuclear submarines, are turning their technology towards peaceful uses.
General Dynamics, builders of the United States military nuclear submarines, are turning their technology towards peaceful uses. The firm has designed a 900 foot (100 metres) submarine oil tanker that if built, would be capable of carrying a 170,000 ton oil cargo under the northern ice packs to serve the Alaskan oil fields.
The submarine has been designed as an economically feasible alternative to the ice breaking surface tankers or the pipeline that would be needed to transport oil from Alaska's north slopes.
Travelling underwater at a sustained speed of 18 knots, the sub-tanker could avoid the costly delays of icebreaking.
The 39 crewmen who would be under the ice cap for as much as a month at a time would live in insulated surroundings. The design also calls for an elaborate sonar system and other navigational aids to prevent collisions that could lead to the puncturing of the vessel and the fouling of the ocean with oil.
The sub-tanker's cargo, equal to 1 1/2-million barrels of oil, could be discharged at ice-free north Atlantic ports.
A fleet o the new sub-tankers would cost three-billion dollars (approx one-thousand million sterling) and as yet none have been ordered. To make them a good investment officials say the Alaskan oil fields would have to have a proven reserve of 25-billion dollars (about 7 1/2-thousand million sterling). Right now the fields are worth an estimated 14-billion dollars (about 4 1/2-thousand million sterling).