Guest essay by Eric Worrall
While the US languishes in the shallows with two fossil fuel powered Icebreakers, Russia has just launched its 39th active icebreaker, its sixth nuclear powered icebreaker.
Russia’s Latest Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker Extends Arctic Dominance
MOSCOW — The Cold War may be long over, but there’s still the Arctic chill.
Russia floated its largest and most powerful nuclear-powered icebreaker last month, upping the ante in what is literally the coldest global gold rush.
The ice-smashing ship was Russia’s sixth reactor-driven polar vessel. The United States doesn’t have a single one.
Moscow’s dominance of the northern seas — courtesy of vast investments — has America and the West worried. Here’s why.
What do we know about Russia’s icebreakers?
Moscow is the most active player in the race for polar dominance — despite the current economic crisis debilitating its fortunes at home.
Of Russia’s 39 icebreakers, six are powered by nuclear reactors.
The newest vessel — the Arktika — was floated on June 16 and will make its maiden voyage next year. An unchallenged feat of icebreaker engineering, the vessel is 1 ½ football fields in length and is powered by twin nuclear reactors.
The Department of Homeland Security said in 2013 that the U.S. needs at least six active icebreakers.
It currently has two active icebreakers and one ice-capable research vessel — none of which are nuclear-powered.
Aside from utter defacto military dominance of the Arctic Ocean, the Russian icebreaker fleet ensures massive logistical support for growing commercial Russian oil and gas extraction in the far North.
Of course, given President Obama’s plan to make solar cost competitive in 10 years, and Obama’s confidence that the Arctic will be ice free by 2040, perhaps the current US administration thinks the massive Russian investment in icebreakers and Arctic fossil fuel extraction is wasted effort.