New Russian Nuclear Powered Icebreakers

NavyRecognition provides us some information on a new class of Russian nuclear powered Icebreaker. They are, to say the least, huge.

  • Length: 209 meters (686 feet)
  • Beam 47.7 meters (156 feet)
  • Draft: 13 meters (43 feet)
  • 120 MW (160,923 HP) (More than twice that of the Polar Star)
  • Power will be provided by four props on conventional shafts.

They are planning to build three. It is claimed they will be able to break ice 4.3 meters thick and be able to continuously break two meter ice while making 11 knots. They are expected to cost 70B rubles, or about $1.04B US.

10 thoughts on “New Russian Nuclear Powered Icebreakers

  1. I can’t help the feeling that this “Leader” is going to be a white elephant: the “halo project” sucks up the limited Russian resources and, in the end, is probably not as useful as they’d hope.

    11 knots in 2-metre ice sounds fancy on paper until you realize you’re practically throwing those gigantic (possibly multi-year) ice blocks against the bow of the following ship at even higher velocity due to that 120 megawatts of propeller slipstream. I’m not sure if Arc7 (the ice class of the new icebreaking LNG carriers, roughly comparable to PC 3) is strong enough to withstand that. One of the reasons why Russia ended up purchasing 19 high ice class SA-15-type Arctic freighters from Finland in the early 1980s was that their existing tonnage was getting seriously beaten up while being towed by then-new Arktika-class icebreakers.

    In addition, instead of having four RITM-200 reactors (the same type used in the 60-megawatt ships they are now building), the Russians plan to have two “double-sized” RITM-400 reactors in the Leader. Perhaps designing nuclear reactors is a lot easier than I think, but my first thought was along the lines of “Open AutoCAD, CTRL+A (select all), type command “SCALE”, hit “2” and ENTER” – what could possibly go wrong? Personally, when designing new ships, I personally tend to use existing “building blocks” as far as practicable to keep the cost down and the concept feasible…

    There’s also a far more realistic plan to build a fleet of LNG-powered icebreakers with 40 MW propulsion power in co-operation the gas giant Novatek:,novatek-and-rosatom-to-cooperate-on-lngpowered-arctic-icebreakers_54260.htm

    I recall seeing a news piece in Russian pricing those at about 300 million dollars each.

  2. Is it just me, or does the size plus the appearance of the forward 1/3 of the ship equal “Arctic cruise ship?” Is there a casino and indoor swimming pool in the superstructure? What should I expect on a Russian buffet? Borscht and Beluga??

    • The Russians did make money, taking tourist to the Arctic, including the North Pole. I think in this case they may have the nuclear reactors in the superstructure. They have done that in the past.

      • Assuming they follow the general nuclear-powered icebreaker configuration, the reactors are located amidships and take up space from keel to superstructure. Most of the space below the main deck is reserved for various machinery and auxiliary systems. All crew spaces are located in the forward deckhouse. A smooth and sleek design actually makes sense when you want to avoid icing. I guess they also want to look modern.

      • I don’t know about the submarines, but the nuclear-powered icebreakers built in Finland in the late 1980s had, among other amenities, a winter garden for growing fresh vegetables in the Arctic (however, as of 2012 it was no longer in use according to the ice pilot we interviewed). Keep in mind that these are fully civilian-crewed ships that are deployed for months at a time in some of the harshest operating conditions on the planet. Each crew member has a large cabin just for themselves and there are a lot of common crew spaces. Movie theatres and basketball courts spanning two decks are not uncommon, and saunas, swimming pools etc. are of standard as they are required by the Russian national rules.

        Speaking of new icebreaker designs, the latest issue of Aker’s company newsletter just came out with a fresh rendering of the proposed Russian non-nuclear icebreakers on page 5:

        Click to access arctic_passion_news_2_2018.pdf

  3. @ Tups

    I had heard about the winter guardians.

    It reminds me of a story. At the height of the Cold War a RN Leander was tasked to follow a Soviet ship which had left port with a mysterious structure aft. There was bad weather and the frigate couldn’t get a decent view of their target. All they could discern was a couple of times a day a sailor would disappear inside the structure for a few minutes. The weather cleared and the seas calmed and the Leander closed with photographers at the rail ready to collect intel’. And then just as on every other day since leaving port a Soviet sailor approached the structure. This time he didn’t go in he just the latched the door open. And then from inside several large hens appeared and spent sometime getting fresh air on deck.

  4. The shipbuilding contract for the first 120-megawatt “leader-icebreaker” (or, as they have been calling it for some time now, just “Leader”) was signed today between Rosatom and Zvezda (and, as a sign of the times, it was done via a video link rather than in person). It should be commissioned by 2027 and followed by two sister ships by 2033.

    I still think that’s going to be a white elephant.

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