Russia is planning to construct its first fleet of liquified natural gas (LNG)-powered icebreakers.

The country, which owns the world’s only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, has returned ‘to an idea that was put on hold’, reported Reuters.

With the melting of ice due to climate change, Russia is striving to develop the Northern Sea Route across its northern side into an international shipping course.

The state nuclear energy firm Rosatom has been selected by the Russian Government to assume the role of the Northern Sea Route’s state operator.

Rosatom director general Alexey Likhachev was quoted by Reuters as saying: “We are now returning to this topic (building LNG-powered icebreakers). I think that by the end of the year we will decide on the possible construction of two to four medium-sized icebreakers.”

In 2018, Rosatom and gas producer Novatek signed an agreement of understanding for the development of LNG-powered icebreakers.

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However, no substantial development subsequently took place.

Currently, Novatek is implementing various LNG projects in the Arctic.

The construction cost of LNG-powered icebreakers comes to only half of the $814m (RUR60bn) required to develop nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Rosatom first deputy director-general Kirill Komarov was reported to have said that the company has also placed an order for two more nuclear-powered icebreakers recognised by their project name 22220.

Constructed in 2020, Russia’s latest icebreaker, Arktika, was the first vessel of this project series.

As of now, the other four icebreakers are in the process of development.

The goal is to expand the Northern Sea Route’s cargo shipping capacity from last year’s 33 million tonnes to 80 million tonnes.

Furthermore, Rosatom signed a supplementary agreement with mining company Nornickel to complement their 2018 cooperation agreement.

The additional agreement will continue until 2030.