Russian Icebreaker Pulls Into Port After Nuclear Scare

John Konrad
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May 18, 2011


With the news of nuclear troubles in Japan, another close call largely escaped the press. On May 6th the Russia’s Taimyr, a nuclear-powered icebreaker deployed in the Yenisei Bay, battled problems with the vessel’s nuclear reactor. Russian officials reported a slight “increase in activity” inside the ventilation system of the Taimyr’s reactor unit. Bellona provides us with an update on the vessel’s status:

The 23-year-old Taymyr yesterday successfully docked at its home port of Murmansk near the Norwegian border after using back-up diesel engines to make its way back from the Kara Sea in the Arctic. The reactor, whose capacity was reduced to 30 percent, was shut down all together for its return.

Bellona was pleased with the candor with which officials handled the incident, even though their earliest reports on leaking reactor coolant had been incomplete.

The vessel was escorted to port by two other nuclear icebreakers, the Rossiya and the Yamal, Rosatomflot officials told a press briefing that they held aboard the stricken Taymyr to allay fears of radiological dangers.

Rosatomflot nuclear fleet chief Vyacheslav Ruksha said the vessel remained safe and attributed the radiation spill to a micro-fracture that resulted in the leakage of 6,000 litres of nuclear reactor coolant.

“We were lucky because this situation developed at the end of the voyage. But we had to change our plans because it was due to set sail for the Arctic in June,” Ruksha told a Murmansk press briefing.

“Now the icebreaker will undergo repairs, and no one knows how long they will last. Practice shows they could stretch between two weeks and two months,” Ruksha said. He also confirmed that this was the second such leak to affect the 21,000-tonne craft in a year.

According to Rosatomflot’s chief engineer Mustafa Kashka, the icebreaker has worked for 136,000 hours, and its operational life span has been extended to 150,000 hours.

“We hope that this incident will not interfere with extending the working resources of the Taymyr to 170,000 to 200,000 hours,” said Kashka. Continue Reading…

The following is video footage of the Taimyr in action breaking ice (another interesting video can be found HERE):

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