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Russia Launches Nuclear Ice-Breaker Ural

Credit: Baltic Shipyard
Credit: Baltic Shipyard

By The Maritime Executive 2019-05-25 20:15:27

Russia's nuclear energy agency, Rosatom launched the nuclear-powered ice breaker Ural at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg on Saturday - another step towards ensuring all-year round navigability of the Northern Sea Route. 

The 173 meter (568-foot) Ural is equipped with two nuclear reactors on board, capable of generating up to 350MW combined, allowing the ship to break through ice as thick as three meters. The RITM-200 type reactor makes its world debut on the Ural and on sister ships Arktika and Sibir before Rosatom deploys it in floating and landlocked nuclear power plants.

Ural and other vessels from project 22220 have a dual-draft design. The ballast tanks inside their hull can be adjusted easily to alter the ship’s draft depending on whether the vessel needs to navigate the Arctic sea or shallow river estuaries. Rosatom says this means it is essentially getting two types of ice breakers for the price of one, representing a potential cost saving of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ural is the third of the new LK-60Ya class of nuclear-powered ice-breakers which are replacing the Arktika-class - only Yamal and 50 Let Pobedy are still are in operation. The first two LK-60Ya ice-breakers have been named after the first two Arktika-class vessels: Arktika and Sibir.

Arktika is expected to enter operation in 2020, Sibir in 2021 and Ural in 2022.

The Russian government has given Rosatom the lead in the development of the NSR infrastructure.  Rosatom Director General, Alexey Likhachev, said: “Our goal for 2024 is for more than 80 million metric tons of shipments to pass through the NSR. We also plan to add two more project 22220 ships 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.