The NS Yamal, named after the “Ends of the Earth” Yamal Peninsula in Northwest Siberia, is an Arktika-class nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker.

Although construction on it began back in 1986, the Yamal was not completed until 1992, after the fall of Soviet rule. Since the new Russian government no longer needed it for its intended purpose — keeping Arctic shipping lanes open — the 150 meters long, 23,455 ton Yamal has since been operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company as a converted 50-cabin cruiser for North Pole tours.


This ship is powered by dual pressurized-water nuclear reactors, each of which contains 245 enriched uranium fuel rods. When fully loaded with 500kg of nuclear material, the Yamal can operate for up to five years without needing to refuel. Each reactor weighs 160 tons and resides within a closed compartment under reduced pressure and is shielded by steel, high density concrete and water. 86 sensors throughout the ship monitor radiation levels at all times.

These motors provide each screw with roughly 25,000 horsepower or 55.3MW. With that much power, the Yamal punches through ice up to 2.3m thick at a speed of 3 knots. And though the Yamal’s maximum rated ice thickness is 5m, it has been recorded smashing individual ice ridges as thick as 9m.

Like many other Russian icebreakers, the Yamal is now chartered out on other operations, particularly for tourists to earn much need foreign currency. The original purpose of being used to keep northern navigational routes open during the winter, is now less important.

For their size, the Arktika class ships are amongst the most powerful and sophisticated ever built.