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Author(s) of the publication: Marina MALYGINA

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by Marina MALYGINA, journalist

In late 2012, the JSC Baltiysky Zavod-Shipbuilding in St. Petersburg started practical implementation of a project for creation of a multipurpose atomic icebreaker of the LK-60Ya series with metal plasma cutting for its hull. It will be the first of three atomic vessels of a new generation capable of piloting tankers of up to 70,0001 displacement through ice. It is just these icebreakers, which will provide all-year navigation along the Northern Sea Route in the coming 40-50 years. Provisions were made for over 90 bin roubles in the budget of the customer Atomflot, a constituent of the Rosatom state corporation, for acquisition of high-tech transport vehicles.

Let us remind you that in August of 2012 an agreement for building of an icebreaker was signed by Atomflot and the JSC Baltiysky Zavod, the only enterprise in the country capable of building atomic giants of 60 MW capacity without preliminary investments. Under the agreement, the work on the stocks will start in November of this year and a ready-for-service ship shall be moored in Murmansk on December 3, 2017. This date is not accidental as it was just on that day in 1959 that the first in the world atomic icebreaker Lenin came to the northern region from Leningrad. The fleet transferred into ownership of the Rosatom state

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corporation in 2008 includes today four atomic vessels of the Arktika series (Russia, Soviet Union, Yamal and 50 Years of Victory*), two shallow-draught icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach for navigation in the estuaries of the Ob and Yenisei rivers and also five floating maintenance bases. But the service life of most icebreakers will be used up by 2018, and starting from 2016 they will be gradually taken out of service. Icebreakers of a new class shall replace them.

THE NORTH OPENS UP NEW PERSPECTIVES

However, not only natural "aging" of the national icebreaker fleet compels construction of icebreakers of the LK-60Ya series (the figure denotes shaft power in MW, and the letters "Ya" point at the presence of nuclear power plant). They are required for efficient keeping up of the main navigation line of the country operating in the Arctic regions, i.e. the Northern Sea Route (NSR), as specialists predict almost a tenfold increase in its cargo turnover.

The Northern Sea Route begins in the Barents Sea and runs along Siberian coasts through the Bering Strait to the countries of the Pacific Ocean. Transport ships accompanied by icebreakers deliver to the main northern ports Igarka, Dudinka, Dickson, Tiksi and Pevek machinery, equipment and energy products for major

See: A. Chechurov, "Champion Among Atomic Giants", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2009-Ed.

national mining and smelting and also oil-and-gas production companies (Norilsky Nickel, Lukoil, Rosneft) and also take out their products. Besides, this route is used for navigation of ships with industrial goods and foodstuff for residents of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and Chukotka.

For the time being the existing icebreakers ensure cargo traffic. But the role of the Northern Sea Route is considerably enhanced due to the active development of the Arctic offshore oil and gas fields* and an increasing need in transportation of hydrocarbon raw material. In 2008, the Varandey stationary marine sleetproof shipment terminal was put into operation in the Pechora Bay for export of oil produced by Lukoil in the Timano-Pechora oil-and-gas bearing province (Arkhangelsk Region)**. Raw material (for now ~7 mln t per year, and a target figure is 12 mln t) is delivered to Murmansk by small shuttle tankers, hence icebreakers are involved in a winter period. The Gazprom Oil Shelf company commences development of the Prirazlomnoye deposit***. A sleetproof mining platform**** of 6.6 mln t of maximum oil productivity per year is already installed

See: N. Bogdanov, "Russia's Shelf, Its Riches", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2003.-Ed.

** See: M. Roshchevsky, N. Ladanova, "Komi's Academic Center", Science in Russia, No. 4, 1999.-Ed.

*** See: Ye. Velikhov et at., "Gas, Oil and Ice", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1994.-Ed.

**** See: M. Khalizeva, "'Sevmash' Arctic Project", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2013.-Ed.

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on the Pechora Bay shelf 60 km away from the Varandey township. Oil will be delivered by tankers (involving icebreakers) to trans-shipping complexes in nonfreez-ing areas of the Barents Sea.

In the settlement of Indiga situated in the Cheshskaya Bay of the Barents Sea the Moscow Transneft company intends to construct a sea terminal for large-capacity tankers, which provide services to the Severny oil pipeline laid from the Kharyaginskoye oil field (Nenets Autonomous Area) to the Cape Svyatoy Nos. From 12 to 24 mln t of oil will be exported annually to the West European ports.

The Pechora SPG company (Moscow) has ambitious plans for development of the Arctic natural resources and possesses licenses for development of the Kumzhin-skoye and Korovinskoye gas fields (estuary of the Pechora river, 65 km to the north-east of Naryan-Mar). In the years to come the company intends to spend US$4 bin for construction in the area of the Cape Bolshoy Rumyanichny of a high-tech natural gas liquefaction complex of 5 mln t annual productivity and a sea port for gas condensate export (~2 mln t) to the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region). The infrastructure facilities will be put into operation in 2015.

In 2012-2018, the Novatek company (Tarko-Sale, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area), which is developing the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye gas-condensate field on the Yamal Peninsula, will construct a gas liquefaction plant of 15-18 mln t annual productivity. A sea port will be constructed in the Sabetta township for export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas condensate (~2 mln t annually). The hydrocarbon projects increase production call for growing volumes of cargo shipments along the Northern Sea Route.

NAVIGATION IN HIGH LATITUDES

It should be stressed that not only national but also international significance of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is increasing. It can become a fitting alternative to cargo transportation between Northern Europe, North-Western Europe and South-East Asia through the Suez Canal. The Arctic route is more attractive than the competitive southern route from the economic point of view because it is shorter almost by 40 percent. For example, it takes 25 days and needs 625 t of fuel to get from Europe to China by NSR, while a sea voyage through the Suez Canal takes 35 days and consumes 250 t of fuel more. However, NSR can become a commercially viable alternative only on the condition that the polar navigation duration increases. In this case we cannot make do without icebreakers of a new generation.

стр. 40

Meanwhile, more and more countries get advantages of navigation in high latitudes even today. In November of 2012, for the first time in the Arctic navigation history, the Ob River tanker passed NSR lines; the tanker was chartered by Gazprom concern and had on board ~135,000 cu. m of LNG from the Norwegian Snøhvi field for Japanese consumers (Japan increased the share of application of gas power engineering after the Fukusima-1 accident in March of 2011).

Never before were ships of 45 m width sent to an Arctic sailing at such time of the year. But the said unique navigation proved to be possible due to our two atomic icebreakers, which ensured ice leading. The Ob River tanker moved from Hammerfest (Norway) to the port of Tobata (Japan). The icebreaker Vaigach "reached" the tanker in the Kara Strait, but later on in the western part of the Vilkitski Strait, which separates the Taimyr Peninsula from the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago and connects the Kara Sea with the Laptev Sea, the icebreaker 50 Years of Victory approached a convoy of vessels. Two atomic icebreakers led the tanker from the Kara Strait to the Cape Dezhnev in a record-breaking time-in 9 days! The successful voyage confirmed the technical and commercial suitability of the NSR for international shipments of liquefied natural gas.

During the summer-autumn navigation of 2012 the Atomflot icebreakers "led" along the Northern Sea Route a total of 46 vessels and above 1 mln t of transit cargo (for comparison: in 2011 the atomic icebreakers "piloted" 34 vessels with 820,000 t of cargo). Besides, the traffic from the East to the West and vice versa was equally heavy. According to optimistic forecasts, by 2020 the volume of sea cargo traffic here can increase to 9 mln t per year (pessimistic forecasts-5 mln t). This is another reason why Atomflot is in a hurry to replenish the Arctic fleet with icebreakers of a new class with an increased service life (up to 40 years), better icebreaking capacity (3 m against 2.5 m on old vessels) and variable draught.

GIGANTIC SCALE

According to Loly Tsoy, Dr. Sc. (Tech.), head of the Icebreaker Equipment Laboratory of the St. Petersburg Navy Research Institute (Atomic Strategy of the list Century magazine, November, 2012), the idea to build an icebreaker of such type arose several years after creation of the Arktika (1975). Even its first voyages and also a legendary cruise to the North Pole (1977) raised a question of its improvement for more efficient operation in severe conditions of high latitudes. Just then the first outlines of an icebreaker of LK-60Ya series appeared (the National Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" acted as the project supervisor). But the technical project, which was developed by the best St. Petersburg shipbuilding institutions such as the Iceberg Central Design Office, the Navy Research Institute and the Kry-lov Shipbuilding Research Institute, was defended only in 2009. Meanwhile, the skeptics maintained that national industry in the present state of things could not "cope" with the project for lack of the necessary process equipment. But other specialists thought differently: it is really a rather complicated task, but it can be resolved as the research and production base is retained in the country, and therefore we can elaborate and introduce new technologies as before. Director General of Atomflot Vyache-slav Ruksha said at a special conference: "The project is a kind of an element of the major master-plan of the Arctic development which shall be realized."

Then, what is a special feature of the project, which arouses controversies up to now? According to the author of the concept of a versatile double-draught atomic icebreaker Loly Tsoy, it differs from its predecessors in all parameters, thus justifying its name "ice giant". Its shaft power will reach 60 MW {Arktika has 55 MW and Taimyr 35 MW), maximum length 172 m (the compared icebreakers have 148 m and 150 m respectively), waterline breadth 32 m against 30 m and 29 m of the said vessels, speed up to 20 knots (~38 km/h) at sea choppiness not more than force 2.

The designers made provisions for two options of draught for a new icebreaker, 11 m and 8.5 m, which will secure navigation both in the open sea and the Arctic shallow water regions (riverine area of Murmansk-Dudinka route, Ob Bay, western coast of the Yamal Peninsula, Khatanga Bay, straits of New Siberian

стр. 41

Islands, approaches to Tiksi and Cape Shmidt). Once in the sea, it will take -7,0001 of water into its ballast tanks and subside by 2.5 m (this will noticeably increase its passability in heavy ice) and throw it down when approaching estuaries of the Siberian rivers. The double-draught structures are not rare in the world shipbuilding but it will be applied for the first time in the construction of the said icebreaker.

Today transportation tankers of up to 70,0001 displacement operate on the Northern Sea Route lines. Their beam is ~36 m. Atomic-powered vessels of the Arktika series are inferior to them in this parameter (their maximum hull beam is 30 m) and therefore cannot lead alone such vessels. The tankers used a double-icebreaker variant of escort, as a rule, for formation of a rather wide channel, which resulted in increased operating expenses. The icebreaker of the third generation needs no supporter as it is approximately 4 m wider than its counterparts and therefore will lead heavy-tonnage vessels alone.

In line with the rules of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, the new icebreaker will be given the Icebreaker 9 class, one of the highest classes. Such transport can move steadily in a compact ice field of up to 3 m thick and secure a convoy of vessels along the Northern Sea Route all the year round.

INTEGRAL TYPE MODULAR REACTOR

But the main "pep" is a reactor plant RITM-200*, which was given a diploma "For the best innovation

See: V. Makarov, "The Future of Marine Nuclear Power", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2010; M. Khalizeva, "Experience. Competence. Range of Activity", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2012.-Ed.

project in the shipbuilding industry" at the All-Russia Professional Contest "The Best Specimens of the Russian Shipbuilding Industry" in 2012. It was developed within five years by specialists of the Afrikantov Experimental Design Bureau of Machine-Building in Nizhni Novgorod. Chief designer of the bureau Yuri Fadeev noted: "Previous projects were developed in the 1970s, but RITM is a product of a new millennium (completed in 2009), which incorporates both the latest advances in atomic machine-building and operating experience of predecessors."

Its main difference from KLT-40M plants (installed on icebreakers Vaigach and Taimyr) is an installation of steam generators and reactor core in one hull. This provided almost a double gain in dimensions and mass. In a word, the reactor became almost twice as light and compact and therefore cheap as regards material consumption and takes less room on the vessel.

Its another feature involves application of reactor core of the cassette type with low (up to 20 percent) enrichment of uranium-235, which reduces substantially its tension and increases service life. The interval between fuel reloadings will be 7-10 years (in KLT-40M it is 3 years).

Apart from two reactors, the power complex includes also a steam-turbine plant designed by the Kaluga Turbine Works and an electric propulsion system with three propulsion motors developed by the French Converteam company. The adopted scheme provides 60 MW propeller power.

For the first time in the practice of the national atomic icebreaker-building, power selection for its own needs is envisaged on the vessel from main turbine gen-

стр. 42

erators (in previous projects this function was performed by auxiliary turbine generators), which simplified noticeably the electric power plant.

The comfort level on the icebreaker can be compared with a four-star hotel: single cabins for the crew, rest rooms, a conference hall, gym and swimming pool. Accommodation for expedition members is also guaranteed. The crew consists of at most 75 persons (twice as many on icebreakers of the previous generation). Many functions are automated here.

The icebreaker is designed for 40 years of service and will cost 37 bln rubles (the major share falls on a reactor plant and different know-how). But after transfer to serial production, the cost will probably be reduced by 25-30 percent.

THE NAME WHICH HAS BECOME HISTORY

The new icebreaker has no name yet. But there is a proposal of Atomflot: to call it Arktika after the second to the Lenin atomic-powered vessel, built in the 1970s at the Baltic Shipbuilding Yard named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze in Leningrad. A year ago the said vessel finished its life cycle and was struck off from the register of ships. Now it is laid up in Murmansk waiting for its further fate: utilization or a museum "exhibit". Seamen, shipbuilders and well-known polar researchers

стр. 44

come out for creation of a memorial and educational complex on board.

Arktika is often compared with the rocket Vostok, which set off Yuri Gagarin to outer space. By scale of gains they are perhaps comparable. In 1977, the icebreaker was the first in the world to reach the North Pole. It operated uninterruptedly for 33 years (177,000 hours of reactor operation), navigated a year without calling at ports, repeatedly rescued scientists on drifting stations, escorted convoys of trapped vessels, and has a million of crossed miles. However, its machinery, assemblies and units serve as a quality standard until now.

According to professionals, to preserve Arktika is a matter of honor. If the icebreaker is sent to St. Petersburg (there are such plans), it will return to its historical home and be moored to the harbor wall of Balriysky Zavod. It is symbolic as in 2017 herefrom a new ice giant will set sail with the name, which already has become history.


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Marina MALYGINA, MULTIPURPOSE ICEBREAKER FOR ARCTIC REGIONS // Stockholm: Swedish Digital Library (LIBRARY.SE). Updated: 08.11.2021. URL: https://library.se/m/articles/view/MULTIPURPOSE-ICEBREAKER-FOR-ARCTIC-REGIONS (date of access: 28.11.2021).

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