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Arctic research station to start operating
( 2004-01-14 22:42) (China Daily)

China's first Arctic scientific research station is expected to start operating this March in Ny-Alesund on Norway's Spitzbergen Archipelago.

The station will focus on oceanography, meteorology, space physics, geology and biology research as well as investigations on local mineral and biological resources, said Wang Fei, spokesman with the State Oceanographic Administration.

A northern hemisphere country, China has undertaken Arctic studies to better understand climatic and environmental changes in its territory. Many of these, such as sand storms and prolonged droughts, are believed to have roots in the Arctic.

China will be the eighth member of the "Ny-Alesund club."

A German group first built a station there in the early 1990s, Wang said.

Besides Norway and Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and the Republic of Korea have established stations in Ny-Alesund for Arctic research.

Without any permanent population and because of its strict control over the use of radio waves, Ny-Alesund is widely regarded as ideal for scientific research.

The station, located at 78.55 degrees North and 11.56 degrees East on Ny-Alesund, is a two-story building with a total area of about 500 square metres. It can accommodate 20 to 25 researchers.

Although the station is already built, the official start of operations was held back during the polar night, which normally starts in late October and ends at the end of February.

The 7.13 million yuan station (US$870,000) is expected to cost more than 6 million yuan (US$731,000) per year to operate, said Qu Tanzhou, director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Office of the administration.

Qu also said yesterday that the National Development and Reform Commission has just endorsed an ambitious plan to further step up the country's polar scientific research.

In addition to the Arctic station, said Qu, the office will upgrade two existent scientific bases -- Great Wall and Zhongshan -- in the Antarctic, renovate the Snow Dragon ice breaker, China's only polar scientific research ship, and construct a special dock and research base for the ship in East China's Shanghai.

The total cost of the plan, likely to be completed by 2005, is 860 million yuan (US$104.9 million).

It is not yet known how many scientist will work there.

The only certainty is that 39-year-old Yang Huigen, vice-director of the Shanghai-based Polar Research Institute of China, will be assigned as the first director of the station.

"Our preliminary plan is to have different scientists come to stay at the station for specific projects," Yang said.

Yang said the international atmosphere in Ny-Alesund will help Chinese scientists make "fast progress" in Arctic research. "We are looking forward to friendly and productive co-operation with foreign scientists in the area," he said.

The administration is publicly soliciting names for the new Arctic station. All those interested can submit their suggestions at www.sina.com.cn.

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