Russia to get new nuclear icebreaker by end of 2006

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MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian icebreaker fleet could receive a new nuclear-powered icebreaker by the end of this year - a ship that has been under construction since 1989, a transportation ministry's official said Wednesday.

An upgrade of the Arktika-class vessel, the 50 Years of Victory icebreaker will be the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker, with a deadweight of 25,000 metric tons.

The Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet currently consists of six Arktika-class icebreakers (Arktika, Sibir, Rossiya, Sovetskiy Soyuz, Yamal and Ural), and two Taymyr-class river icebreakers (Taymyr and Vaygach).

"Six [Russian] nuclear-powered icebreakers are currently operating in the Arctic," Alexander Ushakov said. "The 50 Years of Victory icebreaker has been under construction since 1989 and we hope it will be commissioned by the end of this year."

The 159-meter (522ft) long and 30-meter (100ft) wide vessel is designed to break through ice up to 2.8 meters deep (9.2ft).

According to experts, Russia will need six to 10 nuclear-powered icebreakers in the next 20 years, as demand for them grows with the development of the Arctic shelf and increased traffic along the Northern sea route.

The official said 1.4 million metric tons of cargo is currently transported through the Arctic, although the Russian icebreaker fleet will only become profitable if the volume of cargo exceeds 4 million tons.

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