Atomflot’s general director Mustafa Kashka signs the icebreaker deal with Zvezda. (Credit: Rosatom).Atomflot’s general director Mustafa Kashka signs the icebreaker deal with Zvezda. (Credit: Rosatom).

Construction of Russia’s long-mooted, Leader-class nuclear icebreaker, specified with 120MW of propulsion power and destined for the eastern Arctic, has been awarded to Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex, writes David Tinsley.

The ultra-modern vessel will be the world’s most potent icebreaker in terms of shaft power, with the capability to open and maintain channels through ice up to four metres in thickness. The project represents a long-term investment in Russia’s strategy for the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). The Arctic seaway is seen as an increasingly important conduit both for Russian oil and gas export shipments and also for international shipping undertaking voyages between eastern Asia and northern Europe.

The 209-metre newbuild will be deployed by FSUE Atomflot, a subsidiary of nuclear group Rosatom. The contract document was signed remotely on 23 April by Murmansk-based Atomflot with Zvezda, located near Vladivostock, on the other side of the country in the Russian Far East.

Leader encapsulates the Project 10510 design and is expected to be commissioned in 2027. Technical specifications have been delineated by the central design bureau Iceberg, with the ship’s energy source being two RITM-400 nuclear reactors engineered and produced by the Rosatom subsidiary JSC Afrikantov OKBM.

Besides the reactors, the main power equipment will consist of a steam turbine plant and four turbo generators of 37MW apiece, and an electric propulsion system whereby a 30MW electric motor on each of four shaftlines will deliver a maximum 120MW through four propellers. The arrangements provide for a four-metre ice penetration and an open water speed of 22 knots.

FSUE Atomflot’s general director Mustafa Kashka said “The commissioning of this nuclear icebreaker will allow us to guarantee safe and regular operations in the eastern region of the Arctic Ocean, year-round navigation in the waters of the Northern Sea Route, and new possibilities for carving out high-latitude commercial routes.”

The contract is a considerable boost to Zvezda, which has been consistently augmenting and broadening its workload while the shipbuilding complex itself is taking shape on the eastern bank of the Bay of Bolshoy Kamen. Owned by a consortium of investors including Rosneft Oil Company, Rosneftegaz and Gazprombank, Zvezda is set to become the industry’s single largest facility.

The preceding stage in the revitalisation of the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet under Rosatom control has involved the Project 22220 Arktika-class series, built by Baltiijskiy Zavod in St Petersburg, with initial service entry at the beginning of 2018. The 173-metre Arktika is fitted with two RITM-200 reactors, and three 20MW electric propulsion motors render 60MW through three propellers.

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