Given that Russian territorial waters include large areas of the far north, it’s no surprise that Russia has some of the world’s largest and most capable icebreakers. A few of these are of the nuclear-powered variety.
Nuclear power is ideally suited to icebreakers, because it provides nearly limitless energy for propulsion and on board needs like heating and electricity. Icebreakers tend to consume a lot of fuel, both because of their need for heat and because of the resistance posed by the ice, which requires large and powerful engines. Nuclear power assures the ships will never be stranded in ice with low fuel and gives them the ability to run at full power without concern for fuel burned.
Russia’s fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers are the most capable ice-breaking ships in the world. The icebreaker Artika was the first non-submarine to make it all the way to the North Pole, something few other ships could do.
In recent years, the icebreakers have been used in antarctic and arctic cruises, bringing passengers places few other ships could. It’s not entirely clear if the contract for cruises on these ships will be renewed in future years, but at present, for the price of about nineteen thousand Euro, you can visit the antarctic from the comfort of a huge nuclear icebreaker. Accommodations on board are extremely comfortable, but because these ships were not built to be cruise liners, there’s only room for about one hundred guests.
A look inside really illustrates just what can be done with nuclear energy. When you have limitless power at your disposal, anything is possible, including providing the creature comforts of home in an extremely harsh environment, with subzero temperatures while easily breaking through the toughest pack ice.
And yes, that is a swimming pool. A small one, but a swimming pool none the less. Why did they decide to put a pool on an icebreaker? My guess is just to show off the fact that these icebreakers are such engineering masterpieces that nothing, not even swimming, needs to be omitted in the arctic and antarctic. There are also saunas, libraries, gym areas and small theaters on the icebreakers.
Such recreational facilities also provide the crews of such icebreakers with much needed rest and relaxation during deployments in that can last several months. For an escape from the dark and cold of the poles, they also have conservatory-like rooms with plants bathed in artificial sunlight.
The comforts, however, should not detract from appreciating the extreme capabilities of these ships. They can cruise at more than twenty knots and break through some of the thickest ice in the world. Their twin nuclear reactors are capable of delivering more than 350 megawatts of thermal power and providing 75,000 or more horsepower to the ship’s propellors.
These photos are not all of the same icebreaker
The US Coast Guard operates a fleet of large icebreakers. They’re very capable by any standard, but they are nothing compared to these nuclear-powered ships. Like most of the world’s icebreakers, the Coast Guard uses conventional oil-fired propulsion.
One can only imagine the possibilities if nuclear power of this type were more widely embraced and deployed for marine propulsion. Building a large number would undoubtedly bring the cost down, due to economics of scale.
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