Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 11, 2017 - 3:30 pm

Russian rocket debris unlikely to land in Canadian waters, GN says

“The GN is monitoring this situation”

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
The Inuit Circumpolar Council is worried about pieces of potentially toxic Russian space debris scheduled to fall near Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water polynya, between Nunavut and Greenland. In a PSA this week, the Government of Nunavut described it, however, as a
The Inuit Circumpolar Council is worried about pieces of potentially toxic Russian space debris scheduled to fall near Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water polynya, between Nunavut and Greenland. In a PSA this week, the Government of Nunavut described it, however, as a "very low risk event. (FILE PHOTO)

A Russian SS-19 rocket whose second stage, carrying a highly toxic fuel called hydrazine, will scatter debris between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, is not likely to land in Canadian waters, the Government of Nunavut said Oct. 10 in a public service announcement.

Last week, Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna condemned the upcoming Oct. 13 launch, which will carry a European Space Agency satellite into orbit, and demanded that it be halted.

“We can’t afford to have unknown amounts of hydrazine fuel land in the largest polynya in the northern hemisphere,” Taptuna said, referring to Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water polynya, between Nunavut and Greenland.

But this week’s PSA, issued by Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services, downplays the potential environmental impact of the falling debris.

“The rocket is fueled with hydrazine. It is expected that the debris will fall outside of Canadian territorial waters and this is considered a very low risk event,” the statement said.

Last week, the Inuit Circumpolar Council also condemned the rocket launch, saying it should be halted at least until the environmental impact of falling space debris that possibly containes hydrazine can be assessed.

The old SS-19 rockets that Russia uses for such launches are left over from the Cold War, when they were originally designed to carry nuclear warheads.

But they have since been repurposed for commercial civilian use under a program called “Rockots.”

The type of fuel they carry, hydrazine, has been phased out by many countries due to its highly toxic properties. But it’s believed that any hydrazine contained in falling debris is likely to get burned up before it reaches the surface of the earth.

That’s what happened in June 2016, the last time a Russian rocket was launched over the Arctic.

At the same time, GN officials said they’re still in contact with the federal government about the upcoming event.

“Although very unlikely, if wreckage falls on land, there will be a coordinated effort to notify the public and recover the debris. The GN is monitoring this situation and will provide more information if necessary,” the PSA said.

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