Icebreaker reactors to get prolonged life-time

"Yamal" will continue working in the Arctic until 2022 (Photo: Atomflot)

Russia plans to extend the exploitation period for the nuclear-powered icebreaker «Yamal» to 2022.


Rosatomflot, operator of the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet, has concluded a contract with the company “Afrikantov Experimental Design Bureau for Mechanical Engineering” on a study on prolongation of the reactors’ life-time to 150.000 hours and 30 years.

“Yamal” was taken into service into service in 1992, so the contract implies that the vessel will be operational until 2022. The contract is worth nearly 4 million rubles (app €88.000).

“It is, unfortunately, a rather common practice to prolong the life time of icebreaker reactors”, Nuclear Scientist Nils Bøhmer from Bellona says to BarentsObserver. “The first time this was done, was when “Arktika” had its reactors prolonged to last 175.000 hours instead of the normal 100.000 hours”. There have been several incidents with Russia’s nuclear icebreakers in the last years, including fires. “Old reactors combined with a different kind of security culture than we have in the West makes a bad combination”, Bøhmer says.

Russia’s existing fleet of icebreakers is ageing. “Yamal” is the second newest of the five operational vessels today. “Rossiya” – in service from 1985, had its last voyage in 2013. “Taymyr” has been in service sonce 1989, “Sovetskiy Soyuz” and “Vaygach” since 1990, and the newest one – “50 Let Pobedy” – since 2007. By 2020, only the newest icebreaker will be in operation unless the reactors on the other vessels are upgraded.

Russia has started construction of a new series of icebreakers. The first of these LK-60 icebreakers has been laid down at the Baltic Shipyard in St.Petersburg and is planned to be ready in 2017. It will be the largest icebreaker in the world. Baltic Shipyard is the only bidder for the tender to build the next two icebreakers in the series, but is not able to agree with the buyer Rosatomflot on the price, as BarentsObserver reported.