Yamal, a Nuclear Powered Icebreaker
Yamal is a nuclear powered ice breaker planned and started
under construction in Soviet Era Russia. She is the youngest of
five Arktika class ships built from the mid 1970's. Her
keel was laid in 1986 in St. Petersburg, by the time she was launched
in October 1992 communism had collapsed in Russia.
Like many other Russian icebreakers,
the Yamal is now chartered out on other operations, particularly
for tourists to earn much need foreign currency. The original purpose
of being used to keep northern navigational routes open during the
winter, is now less important.
For their size, the Arktika
class ships are amongst the most powerful and sophisticated ever
The name "Yamal"
means "End of the Earth" it is also applied to the
Yamal Peninsula for the same reason.
Built entirely for service
in the Arctic seas, the Yamal is unable to voyage to the
Antarctic because of her cooling system. This requires that it be
supplied with cold sea water to operate properly, if the ship were
to voyage to Antarctica it would have to cross the equator and sail
through the tropics where the water is most definitely warm. Hence
the Yamal and her sister ships are confined to the Northern
The Yamal is one of
the few ice breakers that have sailed to the North Pole having done
so for a millennial cruise arriving in time for the 1st of January
2000 with a compliment of paying passengers.
Length: 150m (136m at
the waterline), Breadth: 30m (28m at the waterline),
Draft: 11.08m, Height: keel to mast head 55m.
- Displacement: 23,455 tonnes.
- Power is supplied by two
pressurized water nuclear reactors, each contains
245 enriched uranium fuel rods. Each reactor weighs
160 tonnes and are in a closed compartment under reduced
pressure - in the event of a leak, the leak would be
in and not out.
- Maximum fuel use is 300g of heavy uranium
isotopes per day when breaking thick ice. Reactors
hold 500kg each when fully fuelled, enough for about
- The reactors are shielded by steel, high
density concrete and water. The nuclear chain
reaction can be stopped in 0.6s by full insertion of
the control rods.
- Radiation on the ship is monitored by 86
sensors throughout the vessel from within the
reactor compartment to accommodation areas.
- The reactor cores are used to heat
water up and produce pressurized steam at 30kgcm2.
Each reactor has four boilers, each set of four boilers
turn two steam turbines, which spin three dynamos each
(confused yet?, that's 12 dynamos in total).
- The dynamos supply electric motors
which are connected to the propeller shafts.
Each motor can supply 25,000 shaft horse power to its
screw of which there are three. So in all, the ship
can develop 75,000 shaft horse power or 55.3MW
- enough electricity to supply a town of 18,750 homes
- Propellers are 5.7m diameter,
fixed and weigh 50 tonnes each. Each has four
7 tonne blades, inspection wells allow them to be examined
in operation, blades may be replaced at sea.
- Maximum speed: 22knots (40kmh),
cruising speed 19.5 knots (35kmh) in calm open
water. Ice 2.3m thick can be broken at 3 knots (5.5kmh).
Maximum thickness of that can be penetrated is estimated
at 5m, individual ridges of 9m have been broken.
- Steering can also
be accomplished by directing the air jets of the bubbling
system (comparable to use of bow-thrusters).
- Air bubbling system to help
ice breaking. Jets 9 m below the surface can
deliver 24m3s of air.
- Polymer coatings, specialized
hull design, and the rapid movement of ballast water
(pumps can move 1m3
(a tonne)of water per second) all these
help in moving through and breaking ice.
- Powerful lights
are carried for operations in the dark of winter.
- The cast steel prow is 48cm
thick at its strongest point, that's about
the same as the diagonal measurement of a 19" computer
- The stern region is cushioned
to allow for the close towing of other vessels when
helping them through the ice.
- An helicopter is carried
to help with navigation in ice and for tourist trips
- The hull is double with water
ballast between the two. The outer hull is
48mm thick armoured steel where ice is met and 25mm
10 x 10cm weighs 1.9kg
10cm x 10cm weighs 3.7kg