Nuclear-powered container ship Sevmorput. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

A nuclear-powered ship in Murmansk started to burn. Only few locals got to know about the serious incident

The fire brigade in Murmansk quickly extinguished the blaze that broke out on the 24th of December in a cabin onboard nuclear-powered container ship Sevmorput. State shipowner Rosatom never issued any information about the dramatic situation.
December 28, 2023


Little information is available about the fire that broke out in Atomflot, the base for nuclear-powered vessels in Murmansk.

Only two short announcements were in the evening of the 24th of December posted on messenger service Telegram by the local Ministry of Emergency Situations (Emercom).

The first message posted at 21.17 pm informed about an incident on the territory of Atomflot. About 1,5 hour later, Emercom informed about its successful fire fighting.

“At the moment, the fire fighters have made it to the hearth of the fire and take all measures to quickly extinguish it. They also examine the adjacent premises. There is no risk of spreading.”

A third message followed on the 25th of December and stated that the fired had been extinguished.

According to the emergency service, the fire covered an area of about 30 square meters in a cabin onboard the Sevmorput.

The Telegram messages were read by about ten thousand people. A few of them commented on the posts.


“Where should we flee?” one of the readers asked.


The Sevmorput at the Atomflot base in Murmansk. Photo:


Rosatom, the state nuclear power company that operates the Sevmorput, has apparently not issued any information about the fire. Neither has the company’s subsidiary Atomflot.

There is no information about the incident on the companies’ websites or their social media.

The fire could potentially have created a dramatic situation in the big Russian Arctic city. The Atomflot base is located only few kilometres from downtown Murmansk and a major fire on the nuclear-powered ship would have posed a serious threat to the about 270,000 population.

The Sevmorput is the world’s only nuclear-powered merchant container ship.


The Sevmorput has a powerful icebreaking capacity. Here from a voyage through the White Sea to Arkhangelsk in 2019. Photo: Rosmorport


It is 260 meter long and was built in 1988. For many years, the ship lay idle in Murmansk and Russian authorities ultimately decided to scrap it. However, in 2013 it was instead decided to undertake a major renovation, and in autumn 2015, the ship was again test-sailing the Barents Sea. The following year, Sevmorput was back in regular service and has in the lastest years delivered cargo to military installations in the Russian Arctic, as well as to the petroleum development along the Siberian coast. The ship can carry 74 lighters or 1324 containers.

After the 2015 upgrade and safety evaluation, the reactor’s service life was prolonged with 150,000 hours aimed at keeping the vessel in operation until 2024.

It now looks increasingly likely that the ship will exit service and ultimately be scrapped. In a recent conference on the Arctic, Head of Atomflot Leonid Irlitsa said that his company plans to replace the ship with alternative non-nuclear vessels in 2024.

There are available substitutions on the market, he said, Portnews reported.

Last week’s fire might be what irrevocably seals the fate of the Sevmorput.



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