Arktika-class icebreaker

RIAN archive 186141 Nuclear icebreaker Arktika.jpg
(c) RIA Novosti archive, image #186141 / Nikolai Zaytsev / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Class overview
BuildersBaltic Shipyard
OperatorsFSUE Atomflot
Succeeded byProject 22220 icebreaker
In service1975–present
General characteristics [1][2]
Tonnage20-24,000 GT
Displacement23,000–25,168 tons
Length148 m (486 ft)
Beam30 m (98 ft)
Height17.2 m (56 ft)
Draught11 m (36 ft)
Installed power
  • Two OK-900A nuclear reactors (2 × 171 MW)
  • Two steam turbogenerators (2 × 27.6 MW)
  • Nuclear-turbo-electric
  • Three shafts (3 × 18 MW)
Speed20.6 knots (38.2 km/h; 23.7 mph) (maximum)
Endurance7.5 months
Aircraft carried1 × Mi-2, Mi-8 or Ka-27 helicopter
Aviation facilitiesHelipad and hangar for one helicopter

The Arktika class is a Russian (formerly Soviet) class of nuclear-powered icebreakers. Formerly known as Project 10520 nuclear-powered icebreaker, they were the world's largest and most powerful icebreakers until the 2016 launch of the first Project 22220 icebreaker, also named Arktika.[3][4] Ships of the Arktika class are owned by the federal government, but were operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO) until 2008, when they were transferred to the fully government-owned operator Atomflot. Of the ten civilian nuclear-powered vessels built by Russia (and the Soviet Union), six have been of this type. They are used for escorting merchant ships in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia as well as for scientific and recreational expeditions to the Arctic.


On July 3, 1971, construction began on a conceptual design of a larger nuclear icebreaker, dubbed Arktika, in the Baltic Shipyard in then Leningrad.[5] Four years later, on December 17, 1975, Moscow and Leningrad received radio messages informing them that sea trials had been completed successfully. The newest and largest nuclear icebreaker at the time was ready for the Arctic.[6]

Arktika was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole, on August 17, 1977.

As the leading vessel in Russia's second nuclear icebreaker class, Arktika became the classification name for five icebreakers to follow: the Sibir in 1977, Rossiya in 1985, Sovetskiy Soyuz in 1989, the Yamal in 1992[7] and the 50 Let Pobedy in 2007.

The first of new class of nuclear icebreakers, the LK-60Ya class, was launched in 2016. Also called Arktika, it was launched in anticipation of decreasing ice and increased traffic.[8]

Design and construction

OK-900A reactors

Over the period December 1967 to May 1970, Lenin, precursor of the Arktika and the first nuclear-propelled icebreaker, had its three OK-150 reactors, capable of 90 MW each, replaced with two OK-900 reactors, capable of 159 MW each.[5] The work was carried out at the Zvezdochka yard in Severodvinsk.[9]

Arktika and the entire Arktika-class icebreaker fleet are outfitted with two OK-900A reactors, which deliver 171 MW each. Each reactor is contained in its own closed compartment and weighs 160 tonnes. They are shielded by water, steel, and high density concrete, and ambient radiation is monitored throughout the ship by 86 sensors.[6] The reactors were originally fueled by a 90% enriched, zirconium-clad, uranium fuel. Those reactors still in operation today now use a 20%-90% enriched with 60% average enrichment uranium dispersed in an aluminum matrix.[10] The chain reaction can be stopped in 0.6 seconds by the full insertion of safety rods.[6]

Arktika consumes up to 200 grams of fuel a day when breaking ice. There are 500 kg of uranium isotopes in each reactor, allowing for at least 13.7 years between changing reactor cores. The used cores are extracted and replaced in Murmansk, the spent fuel reprocessed and waste disposed of at a radioactive waste plant.[6]


The OK-900A is a pressurized water reactor, meaning that cooling water is continually pumped under pressure through the reactor to remove heat, keeping the cores and the reactor cool. The heated water is pumped from the reactor to a boiler (four boilers per reactor), where it transfers its heat into another body of water, producing steam at a rate of 30 kgf/cm2 (2.94 MPa, or approximately 1,084 psi). Each set of four boilers drives two steam turbines, which turn three dynamos. One kilovolt of direct current is then delivered to three double-wound motors directly connected to the propeller, providing an average screw velocity of 120-180 rpm. Five auxiliary steam turbines are tied into the plant to provide electricity, turning generators with a cumulative electric power of 10 MW.[6]

Three fixed-pitch propellers provide Arktika with its thrust, power, and maneuverability. The starboard and centerline propellers turn clockwise while the port turns counter clockwise to compensate. Each propeller sits at the end of a 20-meter (65.6 ft) shaft and has four blades, which weigh seven tons and are attached by nine bolts to the hub which is 5.7 meters (18.7 ft) in diameter and weighs 50 tonnes. Arktika also carries four spare blades along with the appropriate diving equipment and tools so that propeller repairs may be made at sea; the operation can take anywhere from one to four days depending on the extent of the damage.[6]

The propellers can deliver a combined bollard pull of 480 tons with 18-43 MW (25,000 shaft horsepower) [totals: 55.3 MW (75,000 shp)]. This amounts to a maximum speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph) on open water, full speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph), and an average speed of 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) while icebreaking 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) thick level ice.[6]


NameBuilderLaid downLaunchedCommissionedStatus
ArktikaBaltic Shipyard3 July 197126 December 197225 April 1975Decommissioned in 2008, moored in Murmansk
SibirBaltic Shipyard26 June 197423 February 197628 December 1977Decommissioned in 1992, moored in Murmansk
RossiyaBaltic Shipyard20 February 19812 November 198320 December 1985Decommissioned in 2013, laid up in Murmansk
Sovetskiy SoyuzBaltic Shipyard2 November 198331 October 198629 December 1989Decommissioned in 2014, laid up in Murmansk
YamalBaltic Shipyard19861989October 1992In service
50 Let PobedyBaltic Shipyard4 October 198929 December 199323 March 2007In service

See also


  1. ^ "Atomic Icebreaker Characteristics". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Atomic Icebreakers Technical Data". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Атомоход "50 лет Победы" готовится к выходу в Балтику". RIA Novosti. 18 January 2012.
  4. ^ Domonoske, Camila (16 June 2016). "Russia Launches World's Biggest, Most Powerful Icebreaker". NPR.
  5. ^ a b Olagaard, P. Reistad, O. (April 2006). Russian Nuclear Power Plants for Marine Applications
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Pike, J. Project 10520 Arktika/ Global Security.Org.
  7. ^ Hore-Lacy, I. World Nuclear Agency. (January 11, 2010). Nuclear Powered Ships/Encyclopedia of Earth.Org."Nuclear-powered ships". Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  8. ^ "Russia Launches World's Biggest, Most Powerful Icebreaker". 16 June 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Nuclear icebreaker Lenin" Archived October 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Bellona, 20/06/2003.
  10. ^ Bukharin, O. (2006), Russia's Nuclear Icebreaker Fleet. Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

External links

Media files used on this page

RIAN archive 186141 Nuclear icebreaker Arktika.jpg
(c) RIA Novosti archive, image #186141 / Nikolai Zaytsev / CC-BY-SA 3.0
“Nuclear icebreaker Arktika”. The nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika in the Kara Sea.
Russian Nuclear Icebreaker Arktika.jpg
Russian nuclear icebreaker "Arktika"
50 Let Pobedy.jpg
Author/Creator: Anton Chmelev from St.-Petersburg, Russia, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
The russian nuclear powered icebreaker Nuclear Ship "50 Years Since Victory" (50 Let Pobedy).