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Project 10520 Arktika

On December 17, 1974 radio stations in Moscow and Leningrad received the short radiogram: "Work is completed". So laconically captain Yu.S.Kuchiev reported that the road tests of the atomic ice-breaker "Arctic" were successfully finished. "Arctic" was the second atomic ice-breaker in the world. The new Soviet ice-breaker "Arctic" was the improved version of already tested and checked first nuclear-powered ship, Lenin. To it the obstacles erected by nature on the northern seaway were not terrible. The vessel had a displacement of 25 thousand tons, a length 150 meters, a beam of 30 meters. Three screws are set in action by the "atomic heart". This power makes possible for nuclear-powered ship to break five-meter ice, and on the pure water to develop the speed into 18 knots with a power of 75 thousand hp.

In 1975 the flag was raised over the second in the world atomic ice-breaker, intended for dealing with heavy Arctic ices. To it they appropriated name "Arktika". This vessel successfully past testing, and completed the first voyage along the northern seaway. General Secretary of the CC of the CPSU Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, congratulating scientists, designers, workers, ship-builders, machine builders and operating personnel with large working victory - the completion of building and putting to use of the most powerful in the world atomic ice-breaker "Arktika", expressed confidence that participants in the creation of this unique vessel will carry out the tasks to party for the development of Soviet shipbuilding and will mark sequential, XXV the Congress of CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) by new working achievements.

The workers of ship-building industry with the honor carried out the order of party. On the eve of XXV of the Congress of CPSU is gone down to the water a sequential ice-breaker- nuclear-powered ship of this type - "Siberia", and it was impossible not to doubt that more vessels of this class would follow.

Arktika was the lead vessel in Russia's second nuclear icebreaker class, which carried its name. This second generation of icebreakers consisted of Arktika (operational in 1975), Sibir (operational in 1977), Rossia (operational in 1985), Sovetskiy Soyus (operational in 1989) and Yamal (operational in 1992). Rossia, Sovetskiy Soyus and Yamal incorporate several improvements as compared to Arktika and Sibir. These last three nuclear icebreakers having the same dimensions and power of nuclear plant (NPP) equal to 55.1 MW differ from the lead icebreaker by the presence of a higher efficiency air bubbling system (ABS) of domestic production and by some structural improvements.

Powered by two 171 MWt pressurized water reactors which provided 54 MW at its propellers, the maximum ice thickness these ships can penetrate while navigating is estimated to be 5 m, and that Yamal has broken through individual ridges estimated to be 9 m thick.

Communications with submarines in Arctic waters were simplified because of their proximity to Soviet territory. The use of surface ships and submarines for communications relay were also possible. It was possible that civilian nuclear-propelled icebreakers - which were armed on their sea trials - were intended to provide such support to submarines in wartime.

Length overall 150 m, and at waterline 136 m. Breadth overall 30 m, and at waterline 28 m. Draft 11.08 m. Height, keel to mast head: 55 m on 12 decks (4 below water). Ice knife, a 2-m-thick steel casting, is situated about 22 m aft of the prow. Displacement is 23,455 tons; capacity 20,646 gross registered tons. The cast steel prow is 50 cm thick at its strongest point. The hull is double with water ballast between them. The outer hull is 48 mm thick armor steel where ice is met and 25 mm elsewhere. Eight bulkheads allow the ship to be divided into nine watertight compartments.

Ice breaking is assisted by an air bubbling system (delivering 24 m3/s from jets 9 m below the surface), polymer coatings, specialized hull design and capability of rapid movement of ballast water. Ice may be broken while moving ahead or astern. An M1-2 or KA-32 helicopter is carried for observing ice conditions ahead of the ship.

The ship is equipped to undertake short tow operations when assisting other vessels through ice. Searchlights and other high intensity illuminations are available for work during winter darkness. Complement is 131: 49 officers and 82 other ranks.

Power is supplied by two pressurized water nuclear reactors using enriched Uranium fuel rods. Each reactor weighs 160 tonnes, both are contained in a closed compartment under reduced pressure. Fuel consumption is approximately 200 g per day of heavy isotopes when breaking thick ice. 500 kg of Uranium isotopes are contained in each reactor when fully fueled. This allows about 4 years between changes of the reactor cores. Shielding of the reactor is by steel, high density concrete and water. The chain reaction can be stopped in 0.6 seconds by full insertion of the safety rods.

Used cores are extracted and new ones installed in Murmansk, spent fuel is reprocessed, and waste is disposed of at a nuclear waste plant. Ambient radiation is monitored by 86 sensors distributed throughout the vessel. In accommodation areas this is 10 to 12 mRntgen/hr, within the reactor compartment, at 50% power, 800 mRntgen/hr. The primary cooling fluid is water, which passes directly to four boilers for each reactors; steam is produced at 30 kg/cm2 (310C).

Main propulsion system: each set of boilers drives two steam turbines that turn three dynamos (thus six dynamos may operate). 1 kV dc is delivered to three double-wound motors connected directly to the propellers. Electricity for other purposes is provided by five steam turbines turning dynamos that develop a total of 10 MW.

There are three propellers; starboard and midships ones turn clockwise, port turns counter-clockwise. Shafts are 20 m long. Screw velocity is between 120 and 180 rpm. Propellers are fixed, 5.7 m diameter and weigh 50 tonnes; each has four 7-ton blades fixed by nine bolts (16 ton torque applied); inspection wells allow them to be examined in operation. Four spare blades are carried; diving and other equipment is aboard so a blade may be replaced at sea; each operation takes from 1 to 4 days (three such changes have been necessary on Rossiya icebreakers since 1985).

A propulsive effort of 480 tons can be delivered with 18-43 MW (25,000 shaft horsepower) from each screw (total 55.3 MW [75,000 shaft horsepower]). Power can be controlled at a rate of 1% a second. Maximum speed is 22 knots (40 km/hr); full speed in open water is 19.5 knots (35 km/hr); breaking ice 2-3 m thick can be done at 3 knots (5.5 km/hr) continuously.

Sibir was decommissioned in 1992 due to too many pluggings of its steam-generator sections.

Most of the Arktika-class vessels have had operating life extensions based on engineering knowledge built up from experience with Arktika itself. The ship was originally designed for 100,000 hours of reactor life, but this was extended first to 150,000 hours, then to 175,000 hours. In practice this equated to a lifespan of eight extra years of operation on top of the design period of 25 years.

Subsequent repairs, which made it possible to extend the Arktika icebreaker's service life, may also help reactivate the Sibir. In October 2008 the nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika was retired, shutting down its second propulsion reactor. In that time, it covered more than 1 million nautical miles. The vessel served shipping routes in the Arctic Ocean and the seas north of Russia from April 1975. In 1977 it was the first ship to sail to the North Pole; in 2000 it was the first civilian ship to operate for a whole year without docking.

The Russians hope that international tourism to the Arctic and Siberia can be increased to provide a source of foreign revenue. During the summer of 1990, the Russian icebreaker Rossiya made a voyage to the North Pole with 88 paying tourists from 12 countries aboard. Mikhailichenko and Ushakov (1992) report that ice up to 4 m thick was overcome. In 1991 and 1992, the Sovietskiy Soyuz repeated the North Pole voyage with 80 more tourists from 15 countries on board. The chance to visit one of the world's few remaining remote and pristine areas held a fascination for a number of people who will gladly pay for the experience.

Nevertheless, the government must start building new icebreakers soon because all those currently in service will probably be scrapped between 2012 and 2015. According to one 2008 estimate, the Rossiya can remain in operation until 2010 at the most; the Sovietsky Soyuz, until 2014; and the Yamal, until 2017.

Ship List
Name # Port Laid
Launch Comm Decomm Notes
Arktika 1975 Oct
"working reserve"
33 year life extension
Sibir 1977 1992 propulsion failure
steam-generator pluggings
Rossia 1985 2010
"working reserve"
25 year life
33 year life extension
Sovetskiy Soyus 1989 2014
25 year life
33 year life extension
Yamal 1992 2017
25 year life
33 year life extension

length overall 159,6 m / 518.7 feet
Length [KVL] (with [T]=11,0 m) 145,6 m.
Width is greatest 30,0 m
Width [KVL] (with [T]=11,0 m) 28,0 m
Side height with the midship section 17,2 m
draft, design 11,0
Mass of housing and superstructure 9635 t
Displacement (empty) 22 500 t
Average depth 10,0 m
Displacement, complete 25,165 t
Average draft in this case 10,82 m
Displacement, maximum 25800 t
Average draft in this case 11,0 m
Speed 18 units
Crew 145 people


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