Russia prepares to dismantle first nuclear icebreaker

30 November 2016

Russia is set to begin dismantling the nuclear icebreaker Sibir at the Nerpa Shipyard north of Murmansk in 2017, the first time ever that such an atomic vessel has been broken down. Sibir was built at the Baltic Shipyard and launched in 1978 It was retired from service in 1993 but no finance was allocated for its dismantlement until the government approved the federal target program (FTP) for nuclear and radiation safety for 2016-2020 and the period up to 2030. 

Mustafa Kashka, chief engineer at Atomflot, the Murmansk based enterprise responsible for Russia's nuclear icebreaker fleet (part state nuclear corporation Rosatom), said towing the vessel to Nerpa presented special safety problems. Sibir was subjected to a comprehensive engineering and radiological survey to determine that the vessel’s integrity was up to the task. Used nuclear fuel was unloaded from the vessel in 1993 after the reactor had been operating for more than 100,000 hours.

Dismantling will begin in 2017 and metal from the icebreaker will be sawn up as scrap, Atomflot said. Kashka said this approach had helped to reduce the RUB7bn ($25m) cost of dismantling the ship by RUB700m, which was equivalent to the cost of operating the vessel for 3-5 months. The scrap from Sibir is expected to fetch nearly $2.2m, which will be contributed towards the dismantlement costs. The nuclear icebreakers Arktika and Rossiya, now in cold shutdown and are expected to be dismantled with funding from the same FTP.

Atomflot building three new ice breakers to replace those taken out of service. The hull of the lead ship, the Arktika, has already been laid and the next two - Sibir and the Ural - are at different stages of construction.

In September, installation of the newly developed RITM-200 reactor installation was completed for Arktika (Project 22220), the Baltic Shipyard announced. The RITM-200 includes two 175MWt steam-generating units. The next stage will be installation of the auxiliary equipment and valves. The hull of Arktika was launched in June and the vessel is expected to be transferred to Atomflot by the end of 2017.

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