• Back to Encyclopedia Arctica homepage

    Niva River

    Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_X-0295                                                                                                                  

    Form for receipt of article "Niva River"

    001      |      Vol_X-0296                                                                                                                  

            2200 w

            [ ?]

            NIVA River of Murmansk Oblast, 21 miles in length, carries the waters

    of Lake Imandra to the White Sea at the city of Kandalaksha. It falls

    422 feet in that distance, and, having an average flow of 160 cubic

    meters per second, presents a tremendous power potential. Three hydro-electric plants have been projected, to produce a total of 1,171,000,000

    kilowatt-hours per year. The plant designated as Niva-II, went into

    operation in 1934. It has 60,000 kva installed capacity. The construc–

    tion of Niva-III, designed for 150,000 kva, was begun in 1938. It was interrupted during the war, when its unfinished structures were used

    as emergency hospitals and for other military purposes, but resumed

    thereafter. The first plant provided power for the electrical operation

    of the railroad from Kandalksha north, and for the mining and process–

    ing industries of the peninsula. The second [ ?] is to make possible

    a trebling of apatite mining and refining (see article, Apatite) and

    the exploitation of titanium deposits, as well as municipal services

    in the area.

            Lake Imandra lies in the central portion of a deep depression run–

    ning from north to south in the rock-ribbed Kola Peninsula (cf.). This

    depr ession resulted from tectonic processes in very ancient geologic

    times. To the north it continues as the Kola River Valley and the

    long and deep fjord called Kola Bay, while to the south it becomes the

    valley of the Niva. Glacial action deepened and widened the original

    geologic crevasse and cut out of its sides numerous valleys of varying

    size and form. Eventually they filled with water, and thus there came

    into being [ ?] a fantastic chain of [ ?] lakes, lying at various levels

    and connected by rushing streams.

            A quarter of a century ago this land was desolate and unpopulated

    Primeval stillness reigned in the forests surrounding the lakes. The

    29 marshy tundra was impassable, and it was only on rare occasion that

    a Saami (Lapp) fisherman's boat disturbed the waters. The water power,

    002      |      Vol_X-0297                                                                                                                  

    timber and mineral resources were unused and, [ ?] in the latter case,

    virtually unknown, and the scant population of the peninsula - some

    9,000 persons scattered over an area as large as New York State - eked

    out a livelihood by primitive fishing, trapping and, in the tundra, rein–


            The post-revolutionary decades have brought remarkable changes,

    accompanied by and demanding the use of the power of the river. This

    cold, wild and forbidding country has been penetrated, its incalculable

    riches opened to exploitation, and mines, factories and entire towns

    have been erected. Kirovsk, [ ?] to the east of

    the lake at the site of the apatite deposits, had a population of zero

    in 1929 and 40,000 a decade later. It had to have power. Monchegorsk,

    not founded [?] until 1935, lying on the west shore of the lake, had

    30,000 people in four years, and functioning copper-nickel mines and

    a refinery. It uses, and will demand more of, the power of the Niva.

    The growth of Murmansk itself, far to the north and supplied by its

    own hydroelectric development on the Tuloma River, nevertheless creates

    additional demands for Niva power to [ ?]

    [ ?] haul coal, metal, machinery, lum–

    ber, building materials, food, textiles and salt north to that ice-free

    port, and carry southward its ever-increasing fish catch and imports.

    There being no other means of transport on the peninsula but the electrified railroad , Niva power

    provides haulage for all the requirements and production of a population

    now in the vicinity of 450,000.

            Water-power is the more important in that coal and oil are lacking

    on this otherwise rich peninsula, while, in these northerly latitudes,

    timbered-out forests replace themselves very slowly and the peat bogs

    are insufficient for its great requirements in electricity. Fortunately,

    resources of water-power more than make good these lacks. The Niva is

    capable of producing more than 200,000 kva. of energy (the [ ?] installed

    capacity of the plants is to exceed this figure so as to assure full

    003      |      Vol_X-0298                                                                                                                  

    utilization at all times by substituting a turbine in good repair working order for

    one which may go out of order or be in process of overhaul). This is more

    than half the average output of the great Soviet plant on the Dnieper,

    for the Niva makes good in height of drop what it lacks in volume. As

    a cubic meter of water dropping one meter provides 7.5 kilowatts at

    lest in modern turbines, each cubic meter of Niva water provides 950

    kilowatts by the time it reaches the sea.

            The speed of flow is not uniform along the short course of the

    Niva. Where it lives Lake Imandra there is a stretch of rapids with a

    50-foot drop. Then, entering a broad bowl-like valley, the Niva broad–

    ens very greatly to form an attractive lake, Pin. There follows another

    stretch of rapids, with a 112-foot drop, succeeded by a [ ?] quiet

    narrow reach called Ples Lake. Then there comes the most sheer and turbu–

    lent section, providing a drop of 257 feet, which continues to the mouth

    of the river at the White Sea. The three lakes followed by three sec–

    tions of rapids explains the decision to utilize the water power at three


            The mouth of the river, often indundated by 10-foot tides, is the

    site of the ancient pioneer settlement of Kandalaksha, which stretches

    along both banks. This is another user of Niva power, for its growth

    from 4,000 persons in 1929 to 30,000 a decade later, based on the con–

    struction of a fish cannery, saw-mill and machine manufacturing plant,

    was largely made possible by the building of Niva-II, while further

    progress depends upon the completion of [ ?] Niva-III.

            Niva-II was built to utilize the middle series of rapids. Not far

    from the station of Pinozero, travelers along the railroad see the

    shield-dam of that plant, which backs up a quiet artificial reservoir.

    Four huge inclined pipes divert the water down to the generator house,

    located far below, virtually at the level of the original base of the

    river. Here, again, appearances are deceiving, as the four turbines

    004      |      Vol_X-0299                                                                                                                  

    housed in this small structure provide as much energy as do the eight of

    Volkhovstroi near Leningrad, the first large plant ever built [ ?]

    by the Soviet regime. As with the Dnieper, distance of drop outbalances

    a lesser mass of water.

            When operating at full power, water consumption by Niva-II [ ?]

    drains the river above it to the bottom. Under these conditions, all

    three shields are lowered to block the flow of water out of Lake Pin

    into the river, and it follows an artificial diversion canal to the

    pipes feeding the plant. The canal, three miles in length, gathers the

    full potential of the 112-foot drop. [ ?] The industrial village of

    Nivskii came into being during the construction of this plant, [ ?]

    [ ?] The plant is named in honor of Sergei Kirov, Soviet leader murdered

    in 1934, whose energy accounts in large part for the development of this

    far and difficult land.

            The flow of the Niva varies from 700 cubic meters per second in

    the Spring to only forty in winter, but regulatory dams now provide a

    more or less even flow the year round. An earth dam with concrete spillway

    has been built at the source of the river on Lake Imandra, so as to re–

    tain the water of flood-time and release it when needed throughout the

    year. The dam raises the level of the lake about a yard. As it covers an

    area of 386 square miles, this provides an additional layer of a billion

    cubic meters of water. Another billion cubic meter reservoir is provided

    by a dam on [ ?] the Pirenga River, which carries the waters of

    the lake of the same name into Lake Imandra from the west. Further, the

    deepening of the Niva at its source makes another half-billion cubic

    meters of the waters of Lake Imandra available for power, which former–

    ly could not escape over the lip of the river. These measures have made

    possible year-round operation of the power plants at virtually full

    capacity, whereas the Dnieper Plant, for example , [ ?] reaches its height only in

    the few months after the ice breaks in the Spring.

    005      |      Vol_X-0300                                                                                                                  

            [ ?]

            1936 saw the breaking of earth for Niva-III, located less than two

    miles from Kandalaksha, along the lowest of the three stretches of rapids.

    Originally scheduled for completion in 1942, work on it was interrupted

    by the war. Construction was resumed in December, 1944, but went slow–

    ly until the end of the war and for some time thereafter, due to war–

    caused shortages. [ ?]

    However, work [ ?] seems to have gotten into full swing in the sum–

    mer of 1946, and completion by 1949 would appear to be a certainty.

    This plant is virtually unique in that it is being built underground,

    at a depth of 260 feet below the right (west) bank of the river. This

    will prevent the water, introduced to the turbines through underground

    canals, from freezing, enabling the station to function the year round.

    Moreover, as is stated frankly in a Soviet description of the dam: [ ?]

    [ ?] "the underground

    installations will be entirely safe from enemy aerial attack".

            The building of Niva-III involves [ ?] several distinct construction

    projects. In the first place, an earth dam is being thrown across the river [ ?] several miles

    below Ples Lake, raising the water level 48 feet. A spillway on the

    right bank is to lead to a diversion canal 2 3/4 miles in length. The

    first 1 3/4 miles lie underground, beneath a high mountain spur. The

    rest, on the surface, will be [ ?] covered over

    for protection from frost. From the end of the canal the water will

    drop through shafts 260 feet to the underground turbines, located ap–

    proximately at sea level, from which it will empty through a two-mile

    tunnel 30 feet in diameter.

            Surface operations in Tthe construction of Niva-III involve [ ?] the removal of 700,000 cubic

    meters of moraine deposits, 350,000 cubic meters of solid rock, and

    the laying of 320,000 cubic meters of fill. Mining and tunneling opera–

    tions involve the removal of 515,000 cubic meters of rock and the laying

    of 125,000 cubic meters of reinforced concrete. 2,700 tons of steel fab–

    006      |      Vol_X-0301                                                                                                                  

    rication is to be erected. The overall cost was estimated at 200,000,000

    pre-World War II rubles, perhaps $40,000,000.

            Construction was undertaken simultaneously at three points, the dam,

    the below Lake Ples, the [ ?] sea-level tunnel, and the [ ?] power

    house. A new suburb of Kandalaksha has arisen in connection therewith

    at the site of the power house. Construction, which elsewhere in the USSR

    often involves a combination of machinery and hand labor, here was entire–

    ly mechanized, due to the lack of local labor supply and the great costs

    of hauling [ ?] all necessities of life hundreds of miles from the south.

    The diversion canal - both tunnel and open cut - was built before the

    war, the dam afterward. Power shovels were used to remove the moraine

    deposits, and explosives and tunnelling for the underlying gneiss.

    Construction of the sea-level tunnel also proceeded simultaneously from

    both ends: the coast and the base of the shaft where the power house is

    to be located.

            The power house site was described during construction as resembling

    nothing so much as an over-size mine, with the typical pit-head installa–

    tions, but for the fact that the shafts are of unusually large dimensions.

    One, through which the enormously heavy and bulky turbines and genera–

    tors are to be lowered into place, measures 20 by 36 feet. A second, to

    carry the high-tension lines to the surface, measures by 19 by 14. There

    is also a third, emergency shaft, identical with the [ ?] second. Fur–

    ther south, closer to the sea, is a huge 20' by 20' air shaft for the

    underground installations. This extraordinarily large [ ?] outlet to

    the open air is necessary to prevent sharp variations in air pressure

    at the power house. Otherwise, the switching on of any of the enormous

    turbines, releasing an enormous mass of water into the sea-level tunnel

    at high speed, would greatly compress the available air and [ ?] cause

    a rise in its pressure. Similarly, the shutting off of a turbine would

    result in a great expansion of the available air and a drop in pressure.

    These changes would have a negative effect upon the functioning of the

    007      |      Vol_X-0302                                                                                                                  
    Niva III


            The shafts and tunnels described in the foregoing paragraphs were

    built before the outbreak of World War II. Remaining to be sunk were

    the intake shafts from the diversion canal to the power house. Other

    work [ ?] completed before the war in–

    cluded the shifting of the Murmansk railroad main line right-of-way

    from the immediate bank of the river, where the spillway dam was to be

    erected. A beginning was also made in the construction of the 50-foot

    earth dam, although that, [ ?]

    remained to be completed after the war. Likewise, the power installa–

    tions themselves had not yet been manufactured. The completion of Niva-II

    will make Kandalaksha a rival to Kirovsk and to Murmansk itself as a

    northern industrial center. An aluminum plant is being erected to use

    Imandra nepheline, and an apatite refinery to make super-phosphate ferti–

    lizer. Other, unspecified, chemical plants are also to be erected, and

    the lumber industry [ ?] is to be electrically powered.

            Construction of Niva-I (the plants are numbered from the source of

    the river), the smalle st of the three plants, is to begin after 1950.

    The Niva network is also being linked into a single grid with that of

    the [ ?] older [ ?] and smaller Tuloma plant, the world's

    most northerly hydroelectric development, that is now the sole so urce

    of power for the city of Murmansk.


    William Mandel


    191 12 ﹍ 382 191 ﹍ 2292 191 1911 ﹍ 2101

    Back to top