Published: Mon, August 12, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion

Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion

At least two people were killed and seven injured in an explosion at a military base used for missile tests in the far north of Russian Federation on Thursday, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Rosatom's statement may indicate that three of those first reported as injured had since died.

The three injured staff members suffered serious burns in the accident.

Russian Federation has bestowed posthumous awards on five nuclear experts and "national heroes" who died in a mysterious explosion at sea during a rocket engine test, authorities said on Sunday.

In a separate statement Rosatom said the accident occurred during the engineering and technical support of "isotope power sources" on a liquid propulsion system.

It said staff knew of the "potential risk" of the test. An expert from Moscow's Institute for Nuclear Research, Boris Zhuikov, told RBK independent news site that isotope power sources are mainly used in spacecraft and are not usually risky for people working with them.

The defence ministry denied reports of a rise in radiation levels, saying levels were normal and there had been "no harmful discharges into the atmosphere". No official explanation has been given for why such an accident would cause radiation to spike.

"As a result of the accident, five employees of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom were killed during a test at a military training ground in the Arkhangelsk region", the company said.

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Professor Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies said his "working hypothesis" was that the blast "was related to Russia's nuclear-powered cruise missile, the 9M730 Burevestnik (NATO name: SSC-X-9 Skyfall)".

The authorities in Severodvinsk, 30 kilometres from the test site, said on their website on Thursday that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city "recorded a brief rise in radiation levels" around noon that day.

"If they are damaged, people who are nearby could be hurt".

This was the second accident to hit the Russian military in less than a week.

There were no further details of the rocket or fuel type.

Residents of two northern Russian cities are stocking up on iodine that is used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure after a mysterious accident on a nearby military testing site, regional media reported.

"People started to panic".

The Soviet Union was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster when, in 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine released radioactive contamination for nine days.

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