Russia charts 40 years of icebreaker progress

15 August 2017

Russia is this week celebrating the historic achievements of its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet and has also announced project milestones for its latest vessels. The Arktika was the first surface vessel to reach the North Pole, on 17 August 1977. The seventh and largest Arktika class icebreaker - 50 Years of Victory - entered service in 2007 and is now on its way to the North Pole to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Arktika's expedition.

50 Years of Victory (RosAtomFlot)
50 Years of Victory (Image: Atomflot)

50 Years of Victory - which is 25,800 dwt, 160 m long and 20 m wide, and is designed to break through ice up to 2.8 m thick - left the port of Murmansk on 13 August. It aims to reach the North Pole on 17 August when the Russian Federation flag will be hoisted in memory of the Arktika's pioneering captain, Yury Kuchiyev, and his crew.

During the expedition, the icebreaker will host a conference dedicated to the future of the Arktika fleet, environmental protection of the Arctic region and the development of year-round navigation along the Northern Sea Route. Members of the original crew, parliamentarians, veterans of Atomflot and representatives of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom will attend the conference.

Atomflot Director-General Vyacheslav Ruksha said yesterday the voyage has two meanings. "We are paying tribute to the Arktika's legendary campaign and expressing our gratitude to our veterans. We are also demonstrating that, today, after 40 years of successful work in the western sector of the Arctic, modern Russia is ready to perform such global tasks as ensuring year-round navigation along the Northern Sea Route. The construction of new universal nuclear icebreakers will serve this purpose."

50 Years of Victory is scheduled to return to port on 23 August.

Atomflot, a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said yesterday that Kuchiyev's achievement was comparable to "the first human's journey into outer space", referring to Yury Gagarin's orbit of the Earth in the Vostok spacecraft on 12 April 1961.

"The Arktika expedition, which took seven days and eight hours to complete and crossed 2528 miles, practically proved the possibility of year-round navigation on the shortest routes of the Arctic Ocean, as well as the possibility of transit passage of the Northern Sea Route," it added.


Rosatom's nuclear fuel manufacturer subsidiary TVEL has announced its delivery of a batch of fuel assemblies for a universal nuclear icebreaker of the new generation of Arktika. The fuel assemblies, which were produced by TVEL's Chepetsky Mechanical Plant (ChMZ), consist of "seamless narrow-walled hexagonal pipes of zirconium alloy" with a wall thickness of about 1.6 mm, TVEL said yesterday.

They are a "unique and exclusive technology", which ChMZ have produced for the first time, together with scientists from the AA Bochvar Research Institute of Inorganic Materials (VNIINM), which is another Rosatom subsidiary. The fuel assemblies will be assembled by TVEL's Mashinostroitelny Zavod (Elemash) plant. The fuel is intended for use in RITM-200 reactors.

In January 2013, Rosatom called for bids to build two more of these universal icebreaker vessels (project 22220), for delivery in 2019 and 2020, and in May 2104 a contract for RUB84.4 billion was signed with United Shipbuilding Corporation. In August the same year, Russian regulator Rostechnadzor licensed Baltijsky Zavod Shipbuilding to install the RITM-200 reactor units from OKBM Afrikantov for the pilot model. The keel of the first, Arktika, was laid in November 2013, and that of the second, Sibir, in May 2015.

ZIO-Podolsk, part of Rosatom's engineering division Atomenergomash, said yesterday it had completed the assembly of the integrated building of the RITM-200 reactor for Sibir with the installation of steam generator "cassettes". Produced by JSC Afrikantov OKBM, each of the 12 cassettes weighs almost one-and-a-half tonnes. Now the reactor structure is being prepared for hydraulic testing, ZIO-Podolsk added.

RITM-200 reactors have 175 MWt each and are deigned to deliver 60 MW at the propellers via twin turbine-generators and three motors.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News