Manufacturing starts on largest ever marine reactor

14 February 2022

The reactor vessels for Russia's largest icebreaker yet, the Leader, are being made. The vessel will use two RITM-400 reactors for a propeller power of 120 MW, which is twice that of the newest icebreakers currently at sea.

How Leader will look at sea (Image: Rosatom)

Leader will be the first of Russia's 'Project 10510' icebreakers. With unprecedented size and power for a civilian vessel Leader, and two subsequent Project 10510 icebreakers, will be able to penetrate ice up to 4.3 metres thick and clear a channel up to 50 metres wide. Their main purpose will be to maintain passability of the Northern Sea Route, the development of which is a Russian national priority.

The RITM-400 is a development of the RITM-200 reactor design which already has variants for icebreakers, floating power plants and for use on land. As a scaled up model, RITM-400 produces 315 MWt compared with RITM-200's 165 MWt, but uses the same technologies. Atomenergomash said it "surpasses all available marine reactor units."

Aboard the Leader, its two reactors are placed side-by-side in the centre of the ship. Their thermal energy will be converted to electricity by a steam turbine by four 35 MWe generators. This is transmitted to four 30 MW motors to drive its propellers with a total power of 120 MW, which is twice as much as the latest icebreaker to be launched, Sibir.

One of Leader's reactor vessels being manufactured (Image: Atomenergomash)

The Leader itself is being built at the Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex, near Vladivostok. It should be brought into service in 2027. Two more Project 10510 icebreakers were announced by a Presidential decree in October 2020, but they have yet to be named.

The RITM series of small reactors is designed by OKBM Afrikantov, a Rosatom subsidiary. The reactor vessels are being manufactured by another subsidiary, Atomenergomash.

Atomenergomash noted that it "plans to start developing a technical project" on an optimised floating nuclear power plant using RITM-400 units.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News