Beating snowstorms, Russia’s last Primary Seismic station is installed

Exterior of Peleduy site (PDYAR), Russian Federation
Insulated borehole enclosure in Peleduy (PDYAR), Russian Federation
A snowmobile, one of few vehicles that can access this remote area in the Russian Federation
Installation of borehole sensors in progress

The Russian Federation’s last Primary Seismic monitoring station has been installed, overcoming snowstorms and technical challenges in a remote Siberian location to bring the International Monitoring System (IMS) an important step closer to completion.

Station PS35 at Peleduy, nearly 6,000 kilometers east of Moscow in the Sakha Republic, was completed at the end of October and is already sending data to the International Data Centre (IDC) of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna.

It is expected to be certified by December 2021-January 2022, meaning its data will be analysed alongside that of 302 other certified facilities worldwide supporting the CTBTO’s mission to detect any nuclear explosion, anywhere. 

The multi-million-euro project, which has been 13 years in the making, was carried out by the CTBTO and the Russian Ministry of Defence Special Monitoring Service (SMS) with three contractors: Nanometrics from Canada, EnviroEarth from France and Russia’s VECTOR.

Winter temperatures in the area are regularly below -35°C, and in extreme cases below -56°C. Work was hampered by early snowstorms and huge challenges in accessing the remote site, requiring hours of travel every day for the installation team. High latitude posed additional technical difficulties for the solar power system.

Because of these unique conditions, the CTBTO had to design and develop solutions that have never been used before at its monitoring stations, such as installing three component sensors instead of the usual single one at each seismic array.

“I don’t think we have any other station like this one in the network,” said CTBTO project manager Pavel Martysevich, who along with Marián Jusko, a seismic engineering officer, led the PS35 installation project.

Seismic monitoring is one of four technologies used in the IMS, along with infrasound, hydroacoustic and radionuclide, to distinguish between a nuclear explosion and numerous natural and man-made events that occur every day, such as earthquakes or mining blasts.

Russia already hosts 29 certified IMS facilities out of a total of 32 designated on its territory under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. When complete, the IMS will consist of 337 facilities around the globe.