Russia’s powerful new icebreaker runs into trouble during sea trials

Depending on the extent of the problem, the project could run into big delays.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - February 17, 2020
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The nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika is seen drawn by tug boats as it starts the sea trials, in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 12, 2019. (Anton Vaganov / Reuters file photo)

An electrical propulsion motor experienced technical troubles during sea trials of Russia’s powerful new Arktika icebreaker and a commission is now considering ways to fix the problem, Kommersant reports.

If the whole engine must be replaced, that could lead to major delays, the newspaper writes. The 173-meter-long and 34-meter-wide Project 22220 (LK60Ya) class vessel was originally planned to be handed over from the Baltic Yard to state nuclear power company Rosatom in May this year.

But that was before the technical problem appeared, reportedly on February 4.

Sea trials of the nuclear powered icebreaker started in mid-December 2019. Those first sea trials happened without the reactors running.

“We didn’t have time to complete the launch [of the reactors]….. This first part will be with backup generators,” the head of Russia’s Northern Sea Route directorate, Vyacheslav Ruksha said. He declined to comment on which problems are the reason for the delayed start-up of the icebreaker’s main power source, the reactors.

Arktika is the lead vessel in the new class of powerful nuclear-powered icebreakers of which five will be built. The ship has cost the Russian federal budget at least 37 billion rubles (€539 million).

A second, and longer, test voyage is planned for March-April before the icebreaker is subsequently to sail around Scandinavia to its homeport of Murmansk on Russia’s Barents Sea coast.

The main waters of operation for the new ship will be from the Kara Sea and further east along the Northern Sea Route.