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'Arktika': the world's most powerful icebreaker

'Arktika' icebreaker is set to make shipping through the Northeast Passage faster and cheaper

13 января 2020

Project 22220 nuclear-powered icebreakers will be the largest and the most powerful in the world. The lead ship, 'Arktika', has already been constructed and is currently at the stage of sea trials. This massive nuclear ship will be able to escort convoys of vessels through 3-metre-thick ice in the coldest temperatures. The launch of 'Arktika' and four other icebreakers of the new class is going to make shipping through the Northeast Passage possible year-round.

The lead ship is named after its predecessor—the legendary 'Arktika' which was set afloat in 1972. On 17 August 1977, it became the first ship to reach the North Pole through the Arctic ice.

The new icebreaker will have to follow in the glorious footsteps of 'Arktika'. As of today, it is the largest and the most powerful nuclear-powered icebreaker in the entire world. The length of the vessel is 173.3 metres, width—34 metres, displacement—33.5 thousand tons. The "heart" of the icebreaker is the RITM-200 reactor with a capacity of 175 MW, significantly superior to Soviet nuclear ship reactors. 'Arktika' has two of them.

The icebreaker will not stop even in the coldest weather: the new nuclear ship is equipped with a special heating system for navigational equipment which allows it to operate at above –50°C. It means the unique icebreaker can lead convoys of vessels through the Northeast Passage all year round, in almost any weather conditions.

'Arktika' will be escorting large-capacity vessels that carry raw hydrocarbons from deposits located on the Arctic coast, so they can deliver cargo to the Asia-Pacific markets. To do that, the icebreaker has to be able to get into ice-bound mouths of Arctic rivers. A deep draught required to break thick ocean ice would make this task difficult for the huge vessel. In order to prevent the nuclear ship from running aground in shallow parts of the Yenisei River and near the Gulf of Ob, it has a unique double-draught design.

A special ballast system allows 'Arktika' to change its draught from the maximum to the minimum value in only 4 hours. If necessary, the nuclear ship can "lift itself up"—from 10.5 m to 8.5 m draught—and then travel through river mouths.

The development of such "universal" icebreakers will help reduce the cost of convoy operations by 1.5–1.8 times which is going to make shipping through the Northeast Passage cheaper.

The RITM-200 reactor can work continuously for 26 thousand hours and has an expected service life of 40 years.

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