China opens bids for its first nuclear-powered icebreaker

China’s only ocean-going icebreaker Xuelong, a research vessel, setting off from port in Shanghai, China, in November 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A powerful nuclear ship could open new waters for China’s Arctic strategy.

China National Nuclear Corporation on June 21st said bids are welcome from domestic yards to build the country’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, newspaper Global Times reports.

The ship is said to be an “icebreaker support ship” indicating a multi-role purpose more than simply breaking the ice for other vessels in convoy. China’s current only ocean-going icebreaker, the “Xue Long” (Snow Dragon) is an icebreaking research vessel. Last summer, the ship sailed the entire Arctic rim with several stops en route where the on board scientists worked on different ice- and climate related research projects

Bidders are required to take part in research, appraisal, building and testing, as well as providing technology support to the operator.

Russia is today the only country in the world that operates a fleet of civilian nuclear powered vessels; four icebreakers and one container ship, all with Murmansk as homeport. Three new, even more powerful, nuclear-powered icebreakers are under construction.

The two nuclear powered icebreakers “50 Let Pobedy” and “Yamal” at port in Murmansk. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
China investing in nuclear ships, Arctic strategy

China has experience in naval nuclear propulsion from a fleet of currently six military submarines of three different classes.

Song Zhongping, a military expert, said to Global Times the new icebreaker’s reactor can be applied to a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier once updated. Also, nuclear-power could also be applied to other military vessels, allowing them to sail longer distances on the world oceans.

China’s interest in the Arctic is growing and in January the country for the first time issued a white paper on its Arctic policy. China is already actively investing in Russian petroleum development and several huge-scale infrastructure projects including railway and deep-sea port in Arkhangelsk.

The white paper says China aims to participate “in the exploration for and exploitation of oil, gas, mineral and other non-living resources.”

The policy underlines the importance of working together with other Arctic states.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Ottawa makes deal to buy three icebreakers for Canadian Coast Guard, CBC News

China: It’s official: China releases its first Arctic Policy, Cryopolitics Blog

Finland: US icebreaker investment could bring 2 billions euro windfall to Finland, Yle News

Iceland: Arctic Council forum launches web portal explaining Polar Code, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: A cruise ship bound for the North Pole, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: In late June, tankers still getting trapped in Russia’s Arctic ice, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. Coast Guard turns to Canada for help with designing its new heavy icebreaker, Radio Canada International

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *