Russian firms to build world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker

Atomflot and the Zvezda shipyard signed a deal Thursday to work on the massive new nuclear icebreaker.

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Russia will move forward with plans to construct a new massive nuclear-powered icebreaker. (Rosatomflot illustration)

MOSCOW — Two Russian companies signed a deal on Thursday to build the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker to help boost trade on a northern sea route crucial to forging closer links with Asia.

Atomflot, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear group Rosatom, and the Zvezda shipyard, owned by a consortium led by oil giant Rosneft, said they would work together to build the Lider (Leader) icebreaker.

Rosatom said the icebreaker, fitted with a nuclear power unit, would be able to smash through ice as thick as 4 meters. The vessel, with the propulsion power of 120 megawatts, is scheduled to be constructed in 2027.

Russian government plans pushed by President Vladimir Putin hope to see the Northern Sea Route, which trims 4,000 nautical miles off the southern alternative via the Suez Canal, carrying 80 million tonnes of cargo per year between Europe and Asia by 2024.

Russian companies are developing projects for the route in areas including liquefied natural gas, gas condensate, oil, coal and precious metals, among others.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin.