Russia Plans World's Longest Undersea Tunnel from Siberia to Alaska

Russia plans to build the world's longest undersea tunnel, a 64-mile transport and pipeline link that would run from Siberia to Alaska and supply the United States with oil, natural gas and electricity, officials from the Russian Economy Ministry announced in Moscow on Wednesday.

The $65 billion tunnel would run in three sections, connecting two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the United States. A 3,700-mile transport corridor from Siberia into the United States will feed into the tunnel, which would contain a high-speed railway, highway, pipelines and power and fiber optic cables, according to TKM-World Link, the public-private partnership that would build and control the tunnel.

The tunnel's construction would take an estimated 10-15 years.

Investors in TKM-Link would include OAO Russian Railways, national utility OAO Unified Energy System and pipeline operator OAO Transneft, according to a press release from all three companies. Russia and the United States eventually may each own 25 percent stakes in the project.

The World Link will save North America and Far East Russia $20 billion per year on electricity costs, said Vasily Zubakin, deputy chief executive officer of Hydro OGK, Unified Energy's hydropower unit and a potential investor.

Others sharply criticized the plan.

"The project is a monster," said Yevgeny Nadorshin, chief economist with Trust Investment Bank in Moscow. "The Chinese are crying out for our commodities and willing to finance the transport links, and we're sending oil to Alaska. What, Alaska doesn't have oil?" (Humber/Cook, Bloomberg/Seattle Times, April 19). -- KB

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