Pechora–Kama Canal (Russian: Канал Печора-Кама), or sometimes Kama–Pechora Canal was a proposed canal intended to link up the basin of the Pechora River in the north of European Russia with the basin of the Kama, a tributary of the Volga. An accomplishment of this project would integrate the Pechora into the system of waterways of European Russia, centered on the Volga – something that was of particular importance before the advent of the railways, or before the first railway reached the Pechora in the 1940s. Later on, the project was proposed mostly for the sake of transfer of Pechora's water to the Volga and further on to the Caspian Sea.
The 19th century proposals
In the 19th century, communication between the Kama and the Pechora was conducted mostly over a 40-km portage road between Cherdyn and Yaksha. There was also an option to use very small boats that could go up the uppermost reaches of Kama and Pechora tributaries, and cart the goods over the 4 km portage remaining. Poor river and road conditions made transportation into and out the Pechora basin very expensive, and various improvement projects, including a narrow-gauge portage railroad were proposed. Nothing much was ever done, however.
The nuclear option
A canal between the Pechora and the Kama was part of a plan for a "reconstruction of Volga and its basin", approved in November 1933, by a special conference of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Research in that direction was then conducted by Hydroproject, the dam and canal institute led by Sergey Yakovlevich Zhuk (Russian: Сергей Яковлевич Жук). Some design plans were developed by Zhuk's institute, but without either much publicity or actual construction work.
The canal plan was given a new life in 1961 during Khrushchev's premiership. Now it was part of an even grander scheme for "Northern river reversal", which also included similar river water diversion projects in Siberia.
Unlike most other parts of the grand river rerouting scheme, the Pechora to Kama route did not just stay on the drawing board. It saw actual on-the-ground work done, of the most unusual kind: on March 23, 1971, three 15-kiloton underground nuclear charges were exploded near the village of Vasyukovo in Cherdynsky District of Perm Oblast, some 100 km north of the town of Krasnovishersk. This nuclear test, known as Taiga, part of the Soviet peaceful nuclear explosions program, was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of using nuclear explosions for canal construction. The triple blast created a crater over 600 meters long. It was decided later on that building an entire canal in this fashion, using potentially several hundreds of nuclear charges would not be feasible, and the "nuclear option" for the canal excavation was abandoned.
The Northern river reversal plan was completely abandoned by the government in 1986.
Around 2000, local environmentalists carried out several expeditions to the Taiga crater (scrap metal recycling businesses. The environmentalists recommended that the crater lake be fenced again, on the account of the residual radioactivity.), and met with the only person still residing in the Vasyukovo village. The fences surrounding the crater had rusted away and fallen down, and the "Atomic Lake" is now a popular fishing place for the residents of the other nearby villages, while its shores are known for the abundance of edible mushrooms. The area is also visited by the people who pick metal cables etc. left over from the original test, for selling to
- Weiner, Douglas R. (1999). A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev. University of California Press. p. 415. ISBN 0-520-23213-5.
- Soviet/Russian Nuclear Testing Summary
- Pavel Podvig (ed.). Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. p. 478. ISBN 0-262-66181-0.
- Атомный котлован (The Atomic Crater), Bellona, 25-Dec-2002