Military Wiki
Arktika (icebreaker)
Russian Nuclear Icebreaker Arktika.jpg
Russian nuclear icebreaker Arktika
Operator: Atomflot
Port of registry: Murmansk
Builder: Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad
Launched: 26 December 1972
Completed: 25 April 1975
Out of service: 2008
General characteristics
Class & type: Arktika-class icebreaker
Tonnage: 18,172 GRT
Displacement: 23,460 tonnes
Length: 147.9 m (485 ft)
Beam: 29.9 m (98 ft)
Draught: 11 m (36 ft)
Propulsion: Nuclear-turbo-electric; three shafts
75,000 hp (56,000 kW) (combined)
Speed: 20.8 knots (38.5 km/h; 23.9 mph)
Crew: 150

NS Arktika (Russian: «Арктика») is a retired nuclear-powered icebreaker of the Soviet (now Russian) Arktika class. In service from 1975 to 2008, she was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole, on August 17, 1977.[1] Construction of the ship began in the Baltic Shipyard in Leningrad on July 3, 1971.[2] Sea trials completed successfully on December 17, 1975. For further information on the ship's design, construction and propulsion system, see Arktika class icebreaker.

In 1982, she was rechristened Leonid Brezhnev in honour of Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982.[3] In 1986 the name reverted to Arktika, according to some accounts because the ship's crew disliked the new name and refused to respond to radio messages unless the ship was referred to as Arktika. Within a week of the strike, the name was changed back.[4] Another explanation is that the original name change had been due to an administrative mixup, and the name Leonid Brezhnev had never been supposed to apply to Arktika at all, but had been intended for a different ship.[5]

Arktika was retired for several years,[when?] but was repaired in the late 1990s.

Originally designed for 100,000 hours of reactor life, Arktika's service life was prolonged another 50,000 hours in 2000, and another 25,000 hours after that, adding eight years to a 25-year planned service life.[6] The life extension was accomplished by means of replacing critical equipment to allow the safe and continued operation of the nuclear plant. On May 17, 2000, a conference of Russian engineers, scientists, and government officials took place on board Arktika after her first service extension. The extension cost only $4 million, compared to the $30–50 million cost of a new nuclear icebreaker, and proved to be a successful endeavor. The conference concluded thus that the lifetimes of Russian nuclear icebreakers could be successfully extended to 175,000 hours, and possibly more.[7]

On April 9, 2007 a fire broke out on Arktika. The fire caused minor damage to three cabins and knocked out an electricity-distribution panel. The nuclear reactor was not damaged. There were no injuries. The icebreaker was in the Kara Sea when the blaze erupted, and was sent to Murmansk.[8][9]

After 33 years of reliable icebreaking, having become the first surface ship to reach the North Pole in 1977, and the first civilian ship to spend more than a year at sea without making port in 2000, and covering more than a million nautical miles by 2005, Arktika was retired in October 2008.[10] She is docked at Atomflot, the nuclear base and dock in Murmansk, 1 ½ km (0.9 miles) away from the main docks, where she will remain until policies can be drawn up to dismantle her. In the meantime, she is a subject of important research, focused mainly on how to further extend the service life of the other Arktika-class icebreakers.[11] There have been calls for the ship to be converted to a museum, either in Murmansk or St. Petersburg. An earlier Soviet nuclear icebreaker, Lenin, is already a museum ship in Murmansk.[12]

Memorial in honor of icebreaker Arktika's conquest of the North Pole in 1977, in hall of museum of local lore of the Murmansk region

Arktika on a Russian stamp

Arktika laid up at Murmansk, July 2012


  1. Paine, Lincoln P (1997). Ships of the World. Houghton-Mifflin. p. 39. ISBN 0-395-71556-3. 
  2. Olagaard, P. Reistad, O. (April 2006). Russian Nuclear Power Plants for Marine Applications
  3. Kireeva, A. (October 6, 2008). Reactor to Russian nuclear icebreaker Arktika stopped, signalling dusk on a golden age of Soviet Technology/Bellona.Org.
  4. Walston, O. (1994), Arktika. London: Reed Consumer Ltd.
  5. Arctic legend: Saving North Pole conqueror,, October 9, 2012
  6. (October 7, 2008). Arktika Rests After 33 Years of Icebreaking/ World-Nuclear-News.Org.
  7. Kireeva, A. (May 22, 2000). Lifetime for nuclear icebreakers prolonged/Bellona.Org.
  8. "Fire in nuclear-powered icebreaker", BarentsObserver. Published 2007-04-09.
  9. Fire on an Atomic Icebreaker, Kommersantъ. Published Apr. 09, 2007
  10. "Arktika rests after 33 years of icebreaking",, October 7, 2008.
  11. Kireeva, A. (October 6, 2008). Reactor to Russian nuclear icebreaker Arktika stopped, signalling dusk on a golden age of Soviet Technology/Bellona.Org.
  12. “Arktika” could become museum, Barents Observer, August 17, 2012