Environmental Safety of Nuclear Icebreakers

(By V. Pravdin, N. Tkachev, B. Levin, A. Levin ; INSROP Working Paper No. 104 – 1998, II.6.7)


The Reports (Parts I and II) dealing with environmental safety of nuclear icebreakers in the Arctic present results of a conservative assessment of the impact produced by radiation components of an icebreaker nuclear accident on the personnel, population and environment.

The Reports show that in case of an accident contemplated in the technical documentation the radiological situation on board the icebreaker and in the nearest surroundings is within the sanitary standards. In case of an accident not contemplated in the technical documentation radiation impact on the ecological systems differs from the normative values. In this case a package of organisational, engineering and managerial decisions is needed to mitigate that impact on the personnel, population and environment to an acceptable low level.

The aim of this work is to investigate environmental safety of using the Russian nuclear icebreaker in the Arctic shipping under the International Northern Sea Route Program.

Practical experience gained in safe operation of the "Rossia" and "Taimyr" type of nuclear icebreakers verifies high quality of the nuclear power plants used in the icebreakers as well as high qualification and professional training of the personnel which makes it possible to operate the plants trouble free.

Proper technical condition of the nuclear powered ships and personnel safety on board them is ensured in compliance not only with the requirements of the national but also with those of the international documents, such as:

  • IMO Resolution A.491(12). Code of Safety for Nuclear Merchant Ships. 19.11.1981.
  • A Report by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group of the IAEA (No.75 - INSAG-3).
  • IMO Resolution A.741(18). International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and For Pollution Prevention (ISM Code). 04.11.1993.
  • IMO Resolution A.788(19). Guidelines on Implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code of the Administrations. 23.11.1995.
  • Safety Management Manual. SMS - 001. Safety Management System, Murmansk Shipping Company. 1997.
  • The icebreakers are operated in accordance with the fundamental safeguarding principles:
  • managerial principles including establishment of safety culture, responsibility of operating organisation, checking of the fleet operational activity involving safeguarding;
  • principles of structural defence in depth including organisational and technical measures to prevent nuclear - and radiohazardous accidents and mitigate their after-effects on the personnel and environment;
  • technical principles including tried engineering activity, good marine practice, proper training and qualification of personnel, crew members, continuous evaluation of the NPP technical condition, radiation protection, generalisation and use of operating experience.

In compliance with the requirements of the service and technical documentation and requirements set forth below, Russian legislation relating to use of atomic energy in Russia, the Operating Organisation (Shipowner`s Administration) plans and puts into effect a package of precautionary measures to ensure safe operation of the Fleet and maintain appropriate readiness to mitigate negative consequences of an accidence the likelihood of which is low but can not be completely precluded.

As the result of an analysis made to assess possible after-effects of the icebreaker nuclear accident proposals have been worked out to establish informational support to the accident control process and to design organisational and technical measures to minimise radiation impact produced by the accident.

However, for the purpose of the international shipping in compliance with the INSROP program use of the informational support of the existing Marine due to linguistic differences in the software, routing of information flows and lack of the used program adaptation protocols.

With the aim of informational support to the international navigation in the Arctic, assisted by the Russian icebreakers, work shall be performed within the INSROP framework to eliminate the above differences, which hinder integration of the information systems. The requirements of the Federal Law as applied to the international exchange of information on the nuclear accidents shall be taken into account.

The list of top priority works on integration of the Russian and INSROP information systems is given In Appendix 3, Part II.


    V. Pravdin, N. Tkachev, B. Levin, A. Levin, 1998, Environmental Safety of Nuclear Icebreakers, INSROP.©