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Get with the program – buy a nuclear boat that doesn't need fuel

By Stuart Ballantyne - posted Tuesday, 2 July 2024

"Hagar, I can't get to sleep for thinking about her" declared Lucky Eddie to his Commander. "I can even concentrate, eat or do anything without thinking about her" he lamented. Hagar put a hand round Eddie's shoulder, "It's alright Eddie, I was the same with my first boat!" he declared sympathetically.

Hagar the Horrible, a nautical mentor to millions, has dispersed such gems of wisdom, that I post them up in the office kitchen.

Along with 274,000 other Queenslanders that own boats, we proudly show photos of our boats while our spouses show off happy snaps of the kids or the grandkids. Just for the record, I've noticed that some of these small people turn ugly in looks and/or personality when they get bigger, but a good looking boat always stays a good looking boat!.


The amazing thing about a boat is that they can be moved easily with very little horsepower. I have a 1930 photo of one draft horse pulling 600 tonnes of coal on a barge that weighed 200 tonnes. Bringing that 800 tonne total weight ashore, and putting it on railway wheels or truck wheels, would take 30-40 horses to pull it.

Hence when US President Dwight D Eisenhower asked his clever people in the early 1950's for nominating a project for his "Atoms for Peace Project", to a world terrified by the word "atomic", the clever people in his administration offered floating solutions.

At the same time the Soviet Union started considering nuclear energy for transportation in 1954 when the 5-megawatt nuclear power station went into operation at Obninskoye, near Moscow. Serious papers by senior Russian engineers at the time highlighted the attractiveness of nuclear power plants for ship propulsion where "great range and endurance with the least amount of fuel weight" were the most desirable features. 70 years later they still are!

The 1st US project was the nuclear submarine Nautilus, commissioned in 1954 that could stay underwater, even under the polar icecap, for extended periods

The first US nuclear cargo passenger ship 182m Savannah was on the drawing boards early, launched in 1959, entering service in 1964, capable of circumnavigating the planet 14 times at 20 knots on just 22kgs of uranium.

The Russians at the time were obviously peeking over the counter at the Americans, in designing a passenger cargo icebreaker, the 134m Lenin which they launched December 1957, pipping the Americans by getting her into service by 1959, and using a nuclear power plant similar to the Obninskoye unit.


These commercial nuclear vessels were setting significantly higher operational capabilities, particularly on the Russian Transarctic route known as the Northeast passage which isone-third of the distance of the traditional route through the Suez Canal. This transarctic route also gave the Russians access to significant oil reserves, gas reserves and mineral resources

In January 2022, multinational engineering and constructions company China Communications and Construction and Russian Titanium Resources agreed to co-operate on a mining project to develop a vertically-integrated mining and metallurgical complex for the processing of titanium ores and quartz sands from the Pizhemsky deposit in the Komi Republic, north Russia.

The parties also discussed the supply of marketable goods to the Chinese market, including rutile, titanium dioxide, wollastonite, iron oxide, calcined quartz sands, and premium glass sands with low iron content. This project to create a national mining cluster involves the construction of the Sosnogorsk-Indiga railway and the deep sea ports of Tiksi and Indiga, in the Arctic region of Russia. These developments have been boosted by the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia where Chinese trade has increase by 35%. These developments need reliable waterways, which only icebreakers can provide.

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About the Author

Stuart Ballantyne is just a sailor who runs Seat Transport Solutions who are naval architects, consultants, surveyors and project managers.

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