Russia will float out a new-generation nuclear ice-breaker by 2017 with two more to follow in 2020 under a government program to ensure commercial shipping along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) – a 6,000-km Arctic waterway stretching from the Barents Sea in the west to the Bering Strait in the east. Russia is the only country with a nuclear-powered ice-breaking fleet. By the early 2020s, the NSR is expected to start recouping its cost.
The NSR is currently operational all year round. As cargo traffic increases, Russia will need more ice-breakers to cut the way for commercial ships. At present, Russia has five ice-breakers in its Arctic waters. But by 2021, four of them will be decommissioned.
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