VESSEL REVIEW | Sibir – Massive nuclear-powered icebreaker to operate in Russia’s western Arctic

Photo: Haas

United Shipbuilding Corporation’s (USC) Baltic Shipyard has handed over the second Project 22220 nuclear-powered icebreaker to be built in Russia.

Sibir (“Siberia”) belongs to a class of vessels that were originally designed in the 1990s to replace Russia’s aging fleet of icebreakers, nearly all of which were still dependent on 1960s technology. Design work on the Project 22220 icebreakers progressed to the point that they became the largest vessels of their kind ever built, with each vessel displacing approximately 33,000 tonnes and measuring 173.3 metres long and 34 metres wide.

Even with the icebreaker’s size, the draught can be adjusted anywhere from 8.65 to 10.5 metres through the taking in and the discharge of ballast water. This enables the vessel to navigate safely whether along the Northern Sea Route that connects the Atlantic and the Pacific or on the many shallow estuaries found throughout the Russian Arctic.

Photo: Behling

Power is provided by a pair of Afrikantov RITM-200 pressurised water reactors, each with a rated output of 175 MWt. The reactors operate on 20 per cent enriched Uranium-235 and have sufficient fuel for seven years of operations, ensuring fewer downtimes for refueling. Resupply of the onboard provisions can meanwhile be done every six months, enabling extended icebreaking periods along vital sea lanes even during winter.

Sibir utilises a nuclear-turbo-electric powertrain arrangement wherein the two Kirov-Energomash 36MWe turbogenerators run on the steam that is generated by the nuclear reactors. The turbogenerators then produce power for the 20MW electric motors that drive three 6.2-metre, four-bladed propellers. This arrangement allows the vessel to reach speeds of up to 22 knots in the open sea and two knots in ice as thick as 2.8 metres. However, the Icebreaker 9 notation, the highest ice class notation ever to be assigned to any ship by the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, means it is still possible for the vessel to navigate through ice four metres thick during the winter months.

Onboard space is available for 54 crewmembers and 21 other personnel. There is also a helicopter deck with hangar.

As with earlier sister Arktika, Sibir will be operated by local energy company Rosatom through icebreaking arm Atomflot. The vessel has a projected service life of 40 years and its main area of operations will encompass the western Arctic regions off Russia.

Photo: Sergrey

See all the other news, reviews and features of this month’s Marine Engines and Propulsion Systems Week right here.

Type of vessel:Icebreaker
Classification:Russian Maritime Register of Shipping
Owner:Rosatom, Russia
Operator:Atomflot, Russia
Designer:Iceberg Central Design Bureau, Russia
Builder:Baltic Shipyard, Russia
Length overall:173.3 metres
Beam:34 metres
Draught:10.5 metres
Depth:15.2 metres
Main engines:2 x Afrikantov RITM-200, each 175 MWt
Propulsion:3 x four-bladed propellers
Generators:2 x Kirov-Energomash, each 36 MWe
Maximum speed:22 knots
Other equipment installed:Helicopter deck
Type of fuel:Uranium-235
Operational area:Russian Arctic

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