Rosatom launches nuclear icebreaker to open Arctic route

Rosatom State Atomiс Energy Corporation launched in St Petersburg on 25 May the nuclear-powered arctic icebreaker Ural, aiming to ensure all-year round navigability of the Northern Sea Route (NSR).

“The Ural together with its sisters are central to our strategic project of opening the NSR to all-year activity,” Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev said at the launching ceremony. “Our goal for 2024 is for more than 80 million metric tonnes of shipments to pass through the NSR. We also plan to add two more projects to our nuclear icebreaker fleet by 2027. The contract for construction of these icebreakers is expected to be signed by the end of this August,” he added. The 80 million metric tonne target would consist mainly of natural gas (47 million tonnes), coal (23 million tonnes), oil (5 million tonnes), heavy industrial goods such as machinery (5 million tonnes) and 1 million tonnes of metals.

The 173 metre-long Ural is equipped with two highly efficient and compact RITM-200 nuclear reactors on board, capable of generating up to 350MW combined, allowing the ship to break through ice as thick as 3 metres, Rosatom said, adding that RITM-200 type reactor makes its world debut on the Ural as well as on its sister vessels from the 22220 project, the Arktik and the Sibir, before Rosatom deploys it in floating and landlocked nuclear power plants.

The Project 22220 vessels including the Ural feature a dual-draught design, Rosatom said, adding that ballast tanks inside its hull can be adjusted easily to alter the ship’s draught depending on whether the vessel needs to navigate the Arctic sea or shallow river estuaries.

The Russian nuclear giant said the government has given Rosatom the lead in the development of the Northern Sea Route infrastructure. The total amount of funding for the NSR development project is 734.9 billion roubles for six years. Up to a third of that, 274 billion roubles, will be provided from the government budget. The remaining two-thirds, over 460 billion roubles, will be funded by investors, including Rosatom, Russian state oil major Rosneft and Russia’s largest private gas producer Novatek and others, who are interested in transporting cargo along the Arctic sea route.