‘Nuclear icebreaker’ ship being built by China weighs 33,000-tons, is 500-feet long and can break through ice sheets – but is it a prototype for a military vessel?
- China opened bids for a contract to build the enormous vessel last summer
- The state has not said why they are building it but experts think it’s experimental
- It would travel at a max speed of 11.5 knots, or just over 13 miles per hour
- Like the Russian icebreakers, this will also be powered by two nuclear reactors
An experimental 33,000-ton nuclear-powered ship that could cut through thick ocean ice sheets is being built by China
The enormous state-owned ‘nuclear icebreaker’ because the vessel would be capable of cutting through the frozen seas north of Russia and North America.
A first of its kind to serve in China’s global fleet, the enormous nuclear-powered ship would travel at a max speed of 11.5 knots, or just over 13 miles per hour.
The country does not yet have a nuclear-propelled surface ship but does have a fleet of nuclear fuelled submarines.
Some experts have speculated that the ship could be a testing ground for future attempts by China to create a fleet of nuclear powered vessels.
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An experimental 33,000-ton nuclear-powered ship that could cut through thick ocean ice sheets is being built by China. This graphic compares the Chinese vessel with Russia’s largest icebreaker
China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has invited bids for the contract to build a vessel 498 feet (152 metres), 30 metres wide and 18 metres in depth.
These specifications make it fifteen feet (two metres) longer and a around seven thousand tons heavier than Russia’s current Arktika-class icebreaker.
The state, however, has not specified how it plans to use the ship once it’s built but suggested that it will be an ‘experimental platform’.
The South China Morning Post reported that the Navy has ‘nuclear aircraft carriers in the pipeline’.
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The enormous state-owned ‘nuclear icebreaker’ because the vessel would be capable of cutting through the frozen seas north of Russia and North America (stock image)
They said that the vessel is too small to be an aircraft carrier but one military expert said the ship would help develop China’s ‘shipbuilding ability’.
The deadline for bids was Wednesday, and no businesses from outside China were allowed to enter the running.
The ship is expected to tout two 25-megawatt compact pressurised water reactors.
China only has two aircraft carriers right now, one of which was a Soviet ship bought from Ukraine.
WHY IS SHIPPING PREDICTED TO INCREASE IN THE ARCTIC?
In August 2016, the first large cruise ship travelled through the Northwest Passage, the northern waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The following year, the first ship without an icebreaker plied the Northern Sea Route, a path along Russia’s Arctic coast that was, until recently, impassable by unescorted commercial vessels.
In recent decades parts of the Arctic seas have become increasingly ice-free in late summer and early fall.
As sea ice is expected to continue to recede due to climate change, seasonal ship traffic from tourism and freight is projected to rise.
Travel through the Arctic Ocean is already beginning, with the Russian route having the most potential for commercial ships.
The Northern Sea Route had more than 200 ships from 2011 to 2016, all of which were large vessels.
More than 100 vessels passed through the Northwest Passage during that time, with more than half being small, private vessels like personal yachts.
Experts say even the North Pole could be passable in a matter of decades.
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