Russia held a memorial service on Monday for five engineers who died last Thursday in a mysterious nuclear explosion on a military base in Russia. The cause of the accident is officially still in fog, but Russian scientists state that the explosion took place during a test with a nuclear-powered rocket engine.
The Russian atomic agency Rosatom already admitted on Saturday that its nuclear scientists were involved in the accident, without giving any further details. The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that a rocket engine filled with liquid fuel had exploded, killing two people.
However, both American and Russian experts argue that the rocket test was most likely related to the 9M730 Burevestnik, an experimental Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile, which, according to Moscow, has an unlimited range.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised this new nuclear weapon during his annual speech last year.
'Radiation peak twenty times as high as normal'
The explosion took place on a research platform in the White Sea in northwestern Russia. Five engineers flung into the sea by the force of the explosion and died. Three other scientists were injured and are still in the hospital.
After the explosion, a radiation peak was observed for forty minutes in the nearby town of Severodvinsk. The authorities announced that the radiation in the city reached 2 microsievert per hour and then dropped back to the normal value of 0.11 microsievert. Both levels are too small to cause radiation sickness.
According to Greenpeace, the radiation was twenty times as high as normal.
Local people use iodine pills
In response to the accident, the local population decided to stock up on large stocks of iodine pills. The tablets offer some protection against radioactive radiation. About 200,000 people live in Severodvinsk.
As a precaution, Russia has closed off part of the White Sea for a month for shipping. It would be the Dvina Bay, one of the four major areas around the White Sea. As a result, freight traffic can no longer reach the Russian port city of Archangelsk in the near future.
According to the Norwegian news website The Barents Observer , a day after the accident a Russian nuclear cargo ship was observed in the closed area. This led to speculation that the ship was there to pick up radioactive waste that had landed in the sea after the failed missile test.
Russia often concealed major accidents
Russia has a history when it comes to keeping major accidents secret. The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 in the then Soviet Republic of Ukraine is the best example of this. Later this event entered the history books as the most disastrous nuclear disaster ever.
A weapon depot caught fire last week in eastern Siberia, followed by a series of explosions. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated. An area the size of Belgium would have been on fire.
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