Russia has belatedly admitted that the mystery explosion which released radiation into the air last Thursday, triggering warning alerts across towns near the northern port cities of Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk, involved a “small-scale nuclear reactor”.
Radiation levels had spiked to 20 times their normal levels after the incident at a military testing ground in Russia’s Arkhangelsk region, prompting an emergency response team to deploy in full nuclear radiation protective gear, as photos which came out in the aftermath appeared to show. Consistent with early speculation, western defense officials and analysts now believe it was a failed test of a Russian nuclear powered cruise missile.
Putin had first unveiled the experimental technology during a 2018 speech showcasing Russian defense technology developments. The chief stunning claim behind the hypersonic missile is that it can traverse the globe indefinitely at "faster than Mach 5" based on its nuclear powered core.
Though within two days following last Thursday's accident - believed to have happened on a sea platform, which resulted in an area of a White Sea port being shut down - Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom, admitted it had been testing an “isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system,” there's now greater confirmation it involved a cutting edge hypersonic cruise missile.
One US defense analysts has pointed to "an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile known in Russia as the 9M730 Burevestnik and by Nato as the SSC-X-9 Skyfall" — precisely the type of nuclear-powered weapon Putin had previously touted among Russia's developing hypersonic arsenal.
In a video statement released on Sunday evening, a Russian Federal Nuclear Center official confirmed the agency's work includes “miniaturised sources of energy using [fissile] materials”.
This has been taken as a belated admission that Thursday's deadly mystery explosion was a nuclear accident, which further included the following stunning quotes:
Vyacheslav Solovyov, the centre’s scientific director, said similar work on “small-scale nuclear reactors” is also taking place in the US. He did not say how much fissile material had been involved in the accident, or what role it may have played in the explosion.
“We are now trying to understand, we are working closely with a government commission, analyzing the entire chain of events to assess the scale of the accident and to understand its causes,” Solovyov said.
Interestingly, The Guardian report also cited Russian experts who recently sighted a nuclear fuel carrier near the site of last Thursday's explosion.
Official state nuclear agency Rosatom had previously described the blast as having occurred on a sea platform during a series of trials, which "threw several employees into the sea," who perished.
In the days after the blast, pharmacies and hospitals reported a run on iodine pills (used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure) in the northern region.
russia admitted that one of its nuclear reactors blew up and that is only like the fourth most important international news item today— Alexandra Scaggs (@alexandrascaggs) August 12, 2019
happy monday folks
“Everyone has been calling asking about iodine all day,” one pharmacy was quoted as saying by a local media outlet in Arkhangelsk area, Reuters reported. And now we know, despite Russian media downplaying a "panic" among the populace, that area residents were right to be immediately concerned and suspicious.