“Why Does China Suddenly Want Nuclear Icebreakers?” –The National Interest

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry, Arctic Council, by Susie Harder

The National Interest looks at why the Chinese have decided to build nuclear powered icebreakers. There is an interesting quote from the People’s Liberation Army Navy magazine, “With respect to Arctic resources, whoever gets there first, will enjoy the most wealth.”

A couple of items I found interesting were:

  • They are building LNG tankers capable of operating year round in the Arctic.
  • They are also apparently considering the possibility of using a central Arctic Sea Route, allowing them to be free of dependence on the Russians.

5 thoughts on ““Why Does China Suddenly Want Nuclear Icebreakers?” –The National Interest

  1. There is a minor factual error in the article and you have unfortunately replicated in in your blog post. The “ARC7-class super ice-hardened LNG tanker Boris Sokolov” is actually a medium-range oil products tanker built to a Greek customer. While it’s designed to carry gas condensate, a valuable liquid by-product of the natural gas production, it’s not capable of transporting cryogenic cargo such as liquefied natural gas.

  2. Some times you will see rising powers try to ape established powers to signal that they have arrived. It’s the only reason why I could see that they would want such a platform.

    • They want to have access to the areas that are not inside the EEZs of the Arctic Nations. You can only get that on a continuing basis by having your own icebreakers.

      Plus they have an interest in Antarctica which would justify the Icebreakers. In recent years they have been investing more in Antarctica than any other country. They seem to be positioning themselves to make a future claim to parts of Antarctica.

      • They could do that with conventionally powered vessels a lot easier and a lot cheaper. I thought the question was, why do they want nuclear icebreakers?
        As I said what sometimes drives decisions is national pride.

      • Certainly true. I am not sure I buy the story they are building these as prototypes for reactors on an aircraft carrier, because they are already building Nuclear submarines. They also have nuclear power plants on shore that could serve as prototypes.

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