Russia claims world’s largest nuclear icebreaker embarks on arctic journey

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A nuclear-powered icebreaker that Russia claims is the largest and most powerful in the world left on Tuesday for a two-week trip to the Arctic as part of Moscow’s efforts to harness the commercial potential of the region.Known as the “Arktika”, the nuclear icebreaker left St. Petersburg and headed for the arctic port of Murmansk, a journey that marks its entry into Russia’s icebreaker fleet.

Russian state-owned company Rosatomflot has called the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker ship. It is over 173 meters long, is designed for a crew of 53, and can break ice up to three meters thick.

The ship is seen as crucial to Moscow’s efforts to develop the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska.

A mini Suez Canal

Amid warmer weather cycles, Russia is hoping the route could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting shipping times from Asia to Europe.

“The creation of a fleet of modern nuclear icebreakers capable of ensuring regular and safe navigation throughout the year on the entire Northern Sea Route is a strategic task for our country,” said Vyacheslav Ruksha, chief executive officer of the Northern Rosatom Sea Route, in a statement.

Prior to its trip to the Arctic, the icebreaker was tested in sea trials in the stormy waters of the Gulf of Finland, sailing through high winds and towering waves.

The ship was named after a Soviet-era icebreaker of the same name which in 1977 became the first surface ship to reach the North Pole.

Russia has stepped up its construction of icebreakers in an attempt to increase freight traffic in Arctic waters.

President Vladimir Putin said last year that the country’s Arctic fleet will operate at least 13 heavy icebreakers, the majority of which will be powered by nuclear reactors.

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