Zvezda Begins Building World’s Most Powerful Nuclear Icebreaker

Russia’s Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex has cut first steel for the Leader project’s flagship nuclear icebreaker Russia, said to be the world’s most powerful.

The Zvezda shipyard, owned by a consortium led by oil giant Rosneft, is working with Atomflot, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear group Rosatom, to build the icebreaker, which will help boost year-round commercial vessel traffic on the Northern Sea Route connecting Europe and Asia along Russia’s northern coast.

Scheduled to be commissioned in 2027, the icebreaker will be equipped with two RITM-400 type nuclear reactors, four turbines and four electric propulsion motors. The ship’s total power capacity of 120 megawatts (MW) will be at least double that of other icebreakers currently in service or under construction. 

The newbuild will be able to sail through ice more than 4 meters thick at a speed of 2 knots, and will be capable of speeds up to 12 knots in ice that’s 2 meters thick. At 210 meters long and 47 meters wide with a daft of 13 meters, the icebreaker will be able to clear a path about 50 meters wide, enough space for vessels with carrying capacity over 50,000 metric tons, as well as Arc7 liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers with hulls 50 meters wide.

Zvezda, which was chosen to build the icebreaker at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, officially signed the order contract with Atomflot in April.

The shipyard, which is currently operational but still under construction itself, was also put into service at Putin’s instruction, to build various vessel classes including those that had not previously been produced domestically such as Arc7 LNG carriers used to transport gas from the Yamal LNG plant in the Russian Arctic. The yard presently employs a workforce of about 3,500, which will grow to more than 7,000 by the time the shipyard is completed in 2024.

Zvezda’s order book currently amounts to 39 vessels, with options for another 20, including 28 vessels for Rosneft. Its first newbuild, a 114,000 dwt dual-fuel tanker for Rosneft, was launched in May.

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