The Greek-operated carrier, called the Ob River, left Norway on Nov. 7 and arrived in Tobata on Dec. 5, carrying Gazprom cargo behind the icebreakers operated by Russian company Atomflot, which owns the world's only fleet of nuclear icebreakers (they might become less necessary as more Arctic ice melts).
Gazprom notes that the shortened journey saves fuel, reduces losses from LNG evaporation, cuts CO2 emissions and mitigates the risk of pirate attack.
Japan has turned to LNG imports and other fossil fuels to help fill the power gap left by shutting down all but 2 of the 54 nuclear reactors that had furnished about 30 percent of the country's electricity prior to the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.
There's a hint of irony in nuclear reactors providing the propulsion that's delivering the fuel that's replacing nuclear reactors.
The whole process is a showcase for small reactors - the sort that power the icebreakers and that could serve many land lubber purposes as well.
Images: Icebreakers from Gazprom. Map from Wikimedia.
Correction: Russia used 3 icebreakers, not 2 as originally reported. Corrected Dec. 21, around 7:50 a.m. PST.
More nuclear, Arctic and Japan journeys, on SmartPlanet: