Russia’s Zvezda shipyard has begun construction of the first Leader-class nuclear icebreaker, according to Rosatom subsidiary Rosatomflot. The flagship vessel will be named ‘Russia’.
“It will become the most powerful icebreaking vessel in the history of global shipbuilding,” the company said, adding that it “has no analogues in the world.” It also said that the “Leader project will become the basis of the new generation Russian icebreaking fleet.”
The ‘Leader’, or new Project 10510 icebreaker, got the green light in April, when Zvezda and Rosatomflot signed a contract for its construction. The icebreaker is expected to become operational in 2027.
“The unique icebreaker has exceptional characteristics to operate year-round in the eastern Arctic,” said Rosatomflot CEO Mustafa Kashka.
Conceived in 2016, the Leader-class icebreaker dwarfs any existing nuclear-powered icebreaker, including the world’s most powerful Project 22220 Russian icebreakers, currently under construction. The maiden vessel of that project, Arktika, is currently undergoing its final trials and is expected to join the fleet later this year, while two other ships of this type are set to be launched in the next two years.
While the Arktika is capable of breaking three-meter-thick ice, the new Leader-class icebreakers will be able to cut through a 4.3-meter-thick ice sheet, as well as staying at sea for eight months without entering a port. The new icebreakers will pack twice as much punch, boasting a 120-MWatt powerplant, compared to the 60-MWatt output of the Arktika.
The dimensions of the Leader-class icebreaker are impressive as well: the ship will be over 210 meters long – slightly less than two football pitches, and 47 meters tall, equal to a 13-story residential building.
Both vessel families will be tasked with making way for softer vessels through the ice of Russia’s Northern Sea Route. They will accompany fossil fuel-carrying ships that are heading to the Asia-Pacific from Russia’s Arctic deposits.
Russia is the only country in the world that operates a large fleet of nuclear icebreakers. Such vessels are significantly bigger and more powerful than their conventionally-powered counterparts, thus being able to operate in the thick ice sheets of the Arctic. The nuclear engines allow the vessels to operate autonomously for long periods without the need for frequent refueling.
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