13:54 GMT01 March 2021
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    Once completed, the first of the new ‘Leader’-class of icebreakers will succeed the LK-60Ya, another Russian-made design, as the largest and most powerful icebreaking vessel in the world.

    The Zvezda Shipyard in Russia’s Far East has begun construction of the Rossiya (‘Russia’) Leader-class nuclear powered icebreaker, Rosatom subsidiary Rosatomflot has confirmed.

    “The first cutting of metal for the construction of Project 10510 Leader’s heavy-duty nuclear icebreaker took place on July 6 at the [Zvezda] shipyard in the town of Bolshoi Kamen, Primorsky Territory,” the company said in a statement.

    The contract with Zvezda was signed in April, with plans to commission it in 2027. Two more Leader-class icebreakers are expected to be built at a later date.

    According to Rosatomflot general director Mustafa Kashka, the Leader-class of nuclear-powered icebreaking vessels “has no analogues” in the world, and will help Russia “guarantee year-round operations in the eastern Arctic.”

    Developed by the Iceberg Central Design Bureau, a legendary St. Petersburg-based design institution which created the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Lenin, in 1957, the Leader-class of icebreakers is expected to be a major breakthrough in the development of next-generation nuclear icebreaker designs.

    The 209 meter long 47.7 meter maximum beam vessels will to have a total of 120 MW generating capacity, a maximum speed of 22 knots, a displacement of about 70,000 tonnes, and the ability to plow through ice that’s up to 4 meters thick. The ships’ nuclear-powered heart will feature two RITM-400 reactors, a steam turbine unit with four turbogenerators pumping out 37 MW each, and an electric propulsion system with four 30 MW propeller motors.

    Once completed, the leader-class of ships will succeed Project 22220 (LK-60Ya), another Russian-made design, as the world’s largest and most powerful nuclear icebreakers. The LK-60Ya itself succeeded the Arkitka-class, a veteran workhorse Soviet and Russian icebreaker design built between 1971 and 2007.

    Russia’s new fleet of Arctic icebreakers is expected to help the country cement its position in the resource-rich strategic region, with icebreakers seen as an important tool in the creation and maintenance of the so-called Northern Sea Route, a new shipping route running along the Russian Arctic coast from the Kara Sea to the Bering Strait, connecting Europe to Asia.

    Map of the Arctic region showing the Northeast Passage, the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage
    © Photo : Susie Harder
    Map of the Arctic region showing the Northeast Passage, the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage

    In addition to a series of commercial projects and a comprehensive strategy for economic development and investment, including ports, railways, and the creation of a new satellite navigation standard for Arctic use, Russia has also beefed up its security presence in the region amid pressure from NATO.


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