How do ice breaking ships work?

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You Asked:

How do ice breaking ships work? — Chris, Reading, Penn.

Marshall Brain Answers:

An ice breaking ship has three things that help it do its job. First, it has a high-strength hull that is able to crash through ice that can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) thick and then move it aside. Second it has great weight to give it momentum and keep it from stalling. Third it has tremendous power to overcome the drag that the ice presents.

This video shows a classic nuclear-powered ice breaker able to make it to the North Pole:

According to the video:
- the ship has twin nuclear reactors that generate 175 megawatts each.
- the ship uses 1 pound of uranium per day (instead of 100 tons of oil per day)
- The ship weighs 25,000 tons
- The ship travels at 15 knots through thick ice

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