In March 2019 it was reported that a nuclear icebreaker is being built by China. With a displacement of 33,000-tons, it is 500-feet (152 meters) long, 30 meters wide and 18 meters deep. The state-owned vessel is designed to cut through the frozen seas north of Russia and North America. The vessel will be fitted with two 25-megawatt water reactors, allowing the enormous vessel to travel at a max speed of 11.5 knots, or just over 13 miles per hour. Nuclear power has the advantage of long range and massive power. The ice-breaking capacity is PC2, reaching the international advanced level. The country does not yet have a nuclear-propelled surface ship but does have a fleet of nuclear fuelled submarines.
Chinese researchers have started pre-research on a new generation of heavy polar science icebreakers. It is envisaged that the ship will be more advanced and powerful than the existing scientific icebreakers. After its completion, it will for the first time enable Chinese polar scientific ships to be able to stay in the North and South Arctic regions for a long time and help China build a global ocean observation network. It is reported that with the gradual advancement and development of China's polar scientific research cause, relevant parties have realized that they must have advanced heavy icebreakers in order to further expand China's polar cause.
Wu Gang, chief designer of the polar scientific research ship of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, told China Daily that compared with the existing ship types, the new generation of heavy polar scientific icebreaker has outstanding performance in ice breaking and cold protection. "According to our vision, the new model can continue to break the ice on the sea with an ice cover close to 3 meters thick, and can work for a long time in extreme cold conditions of minus 45 degrees. The resident mission enables China to achieve the goal of building a global observation network in the marine field. " Chief Wu said that after the new ship is completed in the future, it will mainly perform three major tasks: icebreaking escort, long-term scientific research and emergency rescue.
At the polar scientific research equipment policy level, in December 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued an opinion on promoting the in-depth development of military-civilian integration of national defense science and technology industry, which clearly stated that it is necessary to actively develop high-level professional icebreakers, polar self-breaking scientific research ships, Rescue ships, polar semi-submersible transport ships, polar resource exploration ships, and polar core supporting equipment and materials support major projects in the marine field.
China's new generation of heavy polar scientific icebreakers has begun related research and development. Its 3m icebreaking capacity will also indicate that China's icebreakers will surpass 22220 icebreakers and reach the world's leading level. Chinese researchers have begun design work on a next-generation icebreaker that will be even more advanced than Xuelong 2. It will be able to break ice about 3 meters thick and operate in temperatures as low as -45 C.
Russia's "50-year Victory" nuclear-powered icebreaker. As the world's largest icebreaker, the icebreaker has a full-load displacement of 25,000 tons, and is equipped with two pressurized water nuclear reactors with a total power of 75,000 horsepower and can continuously remove 2.8 meters of ice. In addition, Russia is also building a more advanced 22220 nuclear-powered icebreaker, which has a displacement of 33,500 tons and can continuously break 3 meters of ice. Three ships are planned to be built.
Those who overcame numerous difficulties to establish the Changcheng Station, China’s first scientific research outpost in Antarctica 34 years ago, were unlikely to have considered the possibility of turning it into a tourist attraction. That is because the southernmost continent was, for many years, out of reach to Chinese scientists, let alone ordinary travelers. China was the last of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to establish an Antarctic station. In 1983, the nation was embarrassed at an international Antarctic research meeting in Australia because it had no presence at the South Pole at the time.
Aware of the huge gap with other world powers in terms of polar research and development capabilities, China has spared no effort over the past three decades to catch up, and has made some remarkable achievements. By 2019 it had five research stations in polar regions — Changcheng, Zhongshan, Taishan and Kunlun in Antarctica, and Huanghe in the Arctic. There is also a China-Iceland Arctic Science Observatory in the Arctic. The country is building a fifth scientific research station in Antarctica, which it intends to put into service around 2022. The unnamed station, on Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay, will be capable of accommodating 80 people in summer and 30 in winter, according to the Polar Research Institute of China. The nation has conducted 35 expeditions to Antarctica and nine to the Arctic, obtaining a great deal of scientific data and many samples. Heavy icebreakers are the heavy equipment that will be urgently needed for the next step in China's polar strategy in the future. China has started planning the development of heavy icebreakers, and we look forward to more members of the 'Snow Dragon' series. The marine scientific research ship is the ship with the most concentrated scientific and technological content among all ship series, and it is also a concentrated and experimental place for ship technology innovation.
Arctic maritime design is a highly specialised area of the shipping industry, with technological edge and purpose-built vessels dominating the landscape. Compared to general shipbuilding, where cost-cutting and serial production model dominate, polar shipbuilding constitutes a market niche, where Finnish and European actors have a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, China is a major player in global shipbuilding, and thus, it will likely be able to develop its own polar shipping design capabilities in the future.
By 2018 construction of a nuclear-powered icebreaker is being considered. The world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker is made in Russia, used to break up the surface of the ice, open up the channel, and ensure that ships enter and leave the frozen port. The icebreaker's power would comes from the small reactor technology of China National Nuclear Corporation. The road to the development of aircraft carrier nuclear power systems is arduous, and some specudlated that the safe way is to first install the test on other vessels smaller than the aircraft carrier, and then complete the carrier installation test after perfection.
The tender of China National Nuclear Corporation was to build a nuclear-powered ship with a displacement of 30,000 tons as a "test platform". Although the specific purpose of the ship is not stated, the size of the ship: 152 meters long, 30 wide, 18 meters draught, and 30,000 tons displacement is estimated to be similar to that of Russia's nuclear-powered icebreaker. So this may be the "Snow Dragon 3" with a "nuclear power" propulsion system. The nuclear-powered icebreaker requires the installation of two 25 MW small pressurized water reactors with thermal output power of 200 MW. Of course, according to the "test platform" in the bidding document, it may also be a scientific research vessel that specializes in developing and testing reactors for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
On 21 June 2018 China National Nuclear Corporation [CNNC] issued a "Nuclear Powered Ice Breaking Comprehensive Support Ship Demonstration Engineering Technology Consulting and Service Outsourcing Project Bidding Announcement" Bidding Number: ZBDL-2018202 (COND-ZB-AJN-18-001). Shanghai Zhonghe Puyuan Co., Ltd. (the "bidding agency") was entrusted by China Nuclear Offshore Nuclear Power Development Co., Ltd. (the "tenderer") to conduct public bidding for this project. The funding sources for this project have been confirmed and the bidding conditions have been met.
Based on Mature Technology In the past, the manufacture of China's first comprehensive ice-breaking support ship, a nuclear-powered ice-breaking comprehensive support ship, must have the ability to break ice, open polar channels, and take into account functions such as power supply, maritime replenishment support, and rescue. In the process of project establishment, feasibility study, design, review, evidence acquisition, construction, commissioning, etc. of the nuclear power ice-breaking integrated protection ship demonstration project, the tenderer is provided with the design verification, design review of the ship and nuclear power plant, Technical consultation and other aspects of technical support to solve technical problems in the progress of demonstration projects. Service period would run from the effective date of the contract to the end of commissioning of the nuclear power ice-breaking comprehensive support ship for demonstration projects.
China Nuclear Power Development Co., Ltd. was established in Shanghai on August 15, 2017, and its business scope includes the development of marine nuclear power equipment. It is worth noting that Jiangnan Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Ltd., a participant in CNNC Marine Nuclear Power Development Co., Ltd., has a lot of experience in the field of polar icebreakers. The company built the Xuelong-2, a new generation of 10,000-ton polar scientific research icebreaker in China. The ship was China's first domestic polar icebreaker, and was delivered in early 2019.
The pedigree-based small reactor technology includes ACP10S, ACP25S, ACP100S and other floating nuclear power plant reactors of different power scales. Based on this, single and dual reactors can be combined to achieve floating nuclear power plants integrated at different power scales. Small reactor technology is a new type of nuclear energy comprehensive utilization technology independently developed by China Nuclear Group based on more than 60 years of nuclear power construction and operation management experience.
Small reactor technology is a new type of nuclear energy comprehensive utilization technology independently researched and developed by CNNC based on more than 60 years of nuclear power construction and operation management experience. It has the characteristics of zero pollution, zero emission, suitable decommissioning and flexible site selection. During operation, the reactor is under the hull water line for a long time. The sea is a natural heat trap, which is conducive to core cooling. Technically, the off-site emergency can be cancelled, and the inherent safety is high.
Compared with floating nuclear power plants, nuclear power icebreakers have higher power requirements due to navigation requirements, and the output electrical power requirements are more stable and reliable, especially when breaking ice requires higher output power. The small reactor technology is still in the feasibility study stage, after which it will be approved by the national energy management department to “move” the nuclear reactor. He also said that the construction of China's first nuclear-powered ice-breaking comprehensive support ship will pave the way for the support of offshore floating nuclear power plants.
Dr. Collin Koh Swee Lean, School of International Relations, Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, said to the Voice of Germany: "China has long been able to build nuclear-powered submarines. However, for surface ships, the construction of nuclear-powered icebreakers is the first step. With the ability to build nuclear-powered surface ships, it will pave the way for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. In the construction and operation of nuclear-powered icebreakers, valuable experience can be gained for the development of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers."
The ability to build a nuclear-powered icebreaker will also show that China is moving towards a global maritime power. Dr. Collin Koh said, “We have seen some progress in this direction, such as the expansion of naval and coastal defense, maritime scientific research (especially deep-sea submersibles), unmanned underwater, surface ships, and considerable shipbuilding. And the port industry."
He Yuanming, a marine analyst at the Rajaratnam Institute of International Relations military research project, believes that Beijing is expected to build a "super" nuclear aircraft carrier of 80,000 tons in the future, which is much more powerful than a typical icebreaker. Therefore, the experience gained in the operation of a nuclear-powered icebreaker cannot be directly applied to the former. He therefore believes that this latest development is more due to China's growing interest in the Arctic.
He Yuanming said that to develop a nuclear aircraft carrier, China still faces an arduous task. “There are only a small number of submarines in China that are nuclear-powered. These submarines have smaller reactors and less power. Therefore, there is still a big gap between the current nuclear capabilities of the PLA Navy and its objectives. The reactor's nuclear-powered icebreaker is expected to help bridge this gap."
China’s 2018 White Paper clearly states that China will strive “for the upgrade of equipment in the fields of deep sea exploration, ice zone prospecting, and atmosphere and biology observation, and promotes technology innovation in Arctic oil and gas drilling and exploitation, renewable energy development, navigation and monitoring in ice zones, and construction of new-type icebreakers”.
Moreover, the White Paper states that “[i]n order to effectively protect the marine environment of the Arctic, China works with other States to enhance control of the sources of marine pollution such as ship discharge, offshore dumping, and air pollution”. Such statements can be seen as political openings for utilising and commercialising Finnish Arctic shipping technology and shipping services.
Chinese operators new to Arctic areas found Finnish experience with international rescue operations and the management of maritime accidents a useful theme for cooperation. China is identified as one of the main markets for the export of Finnish Arctic shipping technology. This is, in fact, the only context in which cooperation with China is mentioned specifically in Finland’s 2013 strategic Arctic statement. It is believed that countries such as China will “need new equipment and fleets capable of operating offshore oil and gas fields as well as mining under Arctic conditions”.
There seems to be little interest among Finnish shipbuilding and shipping companies in acquiring Chinese investors. Finnish companies at the moment see East Asia as a prospective market for their products and technologies rather than a source of investment capital. There may be a more general concern related to foreign investment in this sector in Finland.
Aker Arctic and Wärtsilä have had the most visible presence of all Finnish shipping and shipbuilding actors in the Chinese market. In 2012, Aker Arctic was contracted by the PRC to provide the concept and basic design for a polar research vessel. The construction commenced in the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, with completion of the 122m-long Polar Class 3 icebreaker in 2019. Aker Arctic advertised the icebreaker it designed as “the world’s most advanced polar research vessel”.
In 2014, Aker Arctic produced the concept and basic design for two Arctic module carriers, Audax and Pugnax (Polar Class 3, length of 206.3m with an icebreaking capability of 3 knots in 1.5m level ice), which were built at Guangzhou Shipyard (Guangchuan Guoji Youxiangongsi in 2016. In 2016, Aker Arctic delivered the concept and basic design for an Arctic condensate tanker to the same Guangzhou Shipyard. The Arc7 ice class vessel with deadweight of 43,400 tons with an icebreaking capability of 2 knots in 1.8m level ice for delivery in 2018. Aker Arctic evaluates its engagement with Chinese partners as a positive experience.
Although China has already built the "Snow Dragon 2" of the polar scientific research icebreaker, the most obvious advantage of the nuclear-powered icebreaker compared to the ordinary icebreaker lies in the power and endurance level. In theory, there is nuclear power, as long as the life on board With sufficient resources, nuclear-powered ships can continue to work. Icebreakers need to work in the polar zone for several months, and the requirements for propulsion life are naturally better.
Russia has an absolute say in the field of nuclear-powered icebreakers, but it still has not created a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The United States and France have not crossed the nuclear-powered icebreaker but have successfully crossed the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. although the nuclear-powered icebreaker is not an inevitable way to develop a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, it is indeed a step toward a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Although the nuclear-powered icebreaker is used as a civilian ship, its research on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers is quite instructive , especially in terms of power operation. Its emergence will achieve the integration of China's nuclear power between civilians and military use, good technology civilian and military development, civil development can be used for military use, and in the future to help the Chinese navy's ocean-going capabilities.
Collin Koh also said that nuclear-powered icebreakers can be seen as related to China's "Ice and Silk Road", which is an extension of the existing Belt and Road. Nuclear-powered icebreakers help promote China's long-term interests in the polar regions. He Yuanming said that the engine of the nuclear-powered icebreaker is more powerful and will greatly help to carry out the ice-breaking task. In addition, compared with diesel-powered icebreakers, the latter has great difficulty in refueling in the harsh Arctic environment.
Many websites in China reprinted two articles of the World Wide Web, one of which was the necessary step before the "US-Su' nuclear carrier" and China began to leave. The article wrote: "Before creating a nuclear aircraft carrier, the US and the Soviet Union first used a nuclear cargo ship or a nuclear icebreaker to practice their hands and accumulate relevant experience.... Military observers told the World Wide Web that the implementation of the policy requires the cooperation of major key equipment. The nuclear power icebreaking comprehensive support ship project is a major progress in China's understanding of the Arctic, protecting the Arctic, using the Arctic and participating in the governance of the Arctic following the publication of the White Paper on China's Arctic Policy at the beginning of the year.
Another article in the Global Times entitled "China will build its first nuclear-powered icebreaker before the nuclear carrier" will write: "In recent years, with the melting of the Arctic ice, many countries have begun to deploy in the polar regions. Including the opening of new polar waterways and the exploitation of polar seabed resources, in this case, China’s emphasis on the polar regions is also increasing.” The article then talks about the history of the development of nuclear aircraft carriers in the United States and the Soviet Union, and said that Russia is still the only one capable of building in the world. In the country of nuclear power icebreakers, there are 6 in service.
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