Russia on 25 May launched a third nuclear-powered icebreaker (Project 22220) as part of its programme to renew and expand its fleet of vessels in order to better access the Arctic’s commercial potential. The Ural is the third icebreaker in the 22220 and is due to be commissioned in November 2021 and handed over to Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom in 2022, after the Arktika and the Sibir enter service in December 2019 and November 2020. “The Ural, together with its sisters, are central to our strategic project of opening the northern sea route to all-year activity,” said Rosatom director general Alexey Likhachev. President Vladimir Putin said in April Russia was stepping up construction of icebreakers with the aim of significantly boosting freight traffic along its Arctic coast. He said that by 2035, the Arctic fleet would operate at least 13 heavy-duty icebreakers, nine of which would be powered by nuclear reactors. The route which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska will significantly reduce sea transport times from Asia to Europe. The new icebreakers will be able to slice through ice up to around 3 metres thick. They are powered by new RITM-200 reactor facilities. Likhachev said a contract for the construction of two more icebreakers of the 22220 project would be concluded before the end of August. The total cost of the two icebreakers will be about RUB100 billion ($1.55bn), with the federal budget allocating RUB45 billion and the rest contributed by Rosatom and commercial banks.