Nuclear-powered icebreaker the Arktika has been retired, shutting down its second propulsion reactor last week.
|This file photo shows the Arktika
chewing through 50-60 cm thick ice at
a rate of 30 km/h. The temperature
was -35 °C (Image: RIA Novosti)
The vessel served shipping routes in the Arctic Ocean and the seas north of Russia from April 1975, powered by two 171 MWt pressurized water reactors which provided 54 MW at its propellers. In 1977 it was the first ship to sail to the North Pole; in 2000 it was the first civilian ship to operate for a whole year without docking.
Arktika was the lead vessel in Russia's second nuclear icebreaker class, which carried its name. Sister vessels include the Sibir, Rossiya, Sovietsky Soyuz and the Yamal as well as the 50 Let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory) that was launched in March last year.
Most of the Arktika-class vessels have had operating life extensions based on engineering knowledge built up from experience with Arktika itself. Nuclear.Ru reported that the ship was originally designed for 100,000 hours of reactor life, but this was extended first to 150,000 hours, then to 175,000 hours. In practice this equated to a lifespan of eight extra years of operation on top of the design period of 25. In that time, it covered more than 1 million nautical miles.
Apart from that it will not sail again, the future for Arktika is uncertain. Docked at an AtomFlot facility, it will initially provide an engineering base to study further life extension options for its sister vessels. It will ultimately be dismantled, under a schedule to be determined by the Rosatom agency, which sets the strategy for all Russian nuclear programs.
Russian planners foresee a need for six to ten new nuclear-powered icebreakers in the next 20 years.