On November 20, 1953 the Ministers Council of USSR adopted the decree on the construction of nuclear-powered icebreaker “Lenin” – the first civil ship in the world with nuclear facility.
Oil reserves of diesel icebreakers of the middle of 20th century pattern were up to one third of the ship mass. But even such amount of fuel sufficed for 2 months of navigation maximum which was not enough for north navigation. From time to time a convoy of ships would spend the winter ice-bound due to the shortage of oil at the icebreaker. Thus an icebreaker was needed to lead the convoy of ships for a longer time. That is why the nuclear-powered icebreaker was being designed and constructed to serve the Northern sea way. A strong power installation and a high autonomy allowed to prolong considerably the term of the north navigation. According to the estimates of scholars, the nuclear-powered icebreaker would consume 45 grams of nuclear fuel in 24 hours. The atomic-powered vessel having an unlimited region for navigation could reach the Arctic and the coasts of Antarctica during just one trip.
The project was designed by the Central drafting department “Iceberg”. The chief constructor was V.I. Neganov; the nuclear power plant project was headed by I.I. Africantov, the chief engineer was V.I. Chervyakov.
The length of the nuclear-powered icebreaker was 134 meters, its width – 27.6 m, the displacement – 16000 tones, the speed - 18 knots in clean water and 2 knots in the ice of over 2 meters thick. The icebreaker hull was made of a special stainless steel developed in “Prometheus” institute. The crew was provided with comfortable living conditions for a long-term arctic navigation. The radiation protection for the crew and the environment was also ensured.
On December 5, 1957 the icebreaker was launched. In September of 1959 the roadormance trial began in the Gulf of Finland. On December 3, 1959 the trial of “Lenin” icebreaker was successfully completed and the national flag of USSR was hoisted on it. This date became the birthday of the Soviet icebreaking fleet.
“Lenin” icebreaker had served for 30 years, 5 years more than its designed service life. In 1989 the icebreaker was withdrawn from the fleet. The ship had traveled 654.4 thousands of nautical miles, 563.6 of them breaking the ice (30 Earth’s equators). Thus in average it broke a trail for one around-the-world trip across northern seas in one year. During its service time “Lenin” icebreaker had carved the way in the ice for 3.741 transports.
On December 3, 2009, on the 50th anniversary day of the Russian nuclear icebreaking fleet, “Lenin” icebreaker transformed into a museum of Arctic and the northern sea way development will be opened for visitors at the moorage of Murmansk seaport.
Lit.: Как был построен атомный ледокол «Ленин». Л., 1959.