It’s been a rough summer for the Russian heartland. First there were floods and wildfires that ravaged parts of Siberia. Now, over the past 10 days there have been two deadly explosions. The first was at an ammunition depot in Achinsk (also in Siberia), which resulted in one dead and 7 injured with thousands evacuated from the vicinity. The second was an explosion in the White Sea that has killed 7 and seriously injured at least 6 more.
That last incident off the northern coast of Russia involved the release of radiation that led to a spike in local levels in the immediate aftermath. Democracy Now! has reported 7 resultant deaths that it’s suspected that the explosion may have been a test of a nuclear powered cruise missile gone wrong. ZeroHedge provided the following details:
Russia’s state nuclear agency has said five of its staff members were killed at a military testing site in northern Russia, reportedly when the liquid propellant rocket engine exploded during tests on a sea platform. Some reports say it may have involved a top secret weapon that was part of Moscow’s hypersonic arsenal. Russia is pursuing hypersonic missiles as a nuclear deterrent, as Putin himself has recently verbalized.
Ankit Panda, with the Federation of American Scientists, gave a more nuanced analysis:
“Russian authorities have confirmed the involvement of radioactive materials in the accident, but not the specific weapons system that was being tested,” says Ankit Panda at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. “It’s important to clarify that the radiological event in this case is not due to the presence of nuclear weaponry, but what may be a prototype nuclear propulsion unit for a cruise missile.” He believes the difficulties and dangers of such a system mean it may never see deployment.
Officials with the nearby Russian city of Severodvinsk stated that radiation levels had gone up right after the explosion, but that statement – which contradicted initial Russian Defense Ministry claims that there was no release of “harmful chemicals” or any change in radiation levels – have allegedly been scrubbed from public media, which doesn’t make for good optics.
There are also reports that in the wake of the incident frightened locals have been buying up iodine pills, depleting supplies.
The Daily Mail reported that the 6 additional casualties were suffering from radiation poisoning and other injuries. Images were presented of ambulances racing through Moscow with drivers in full hazmat style gear transporting the victims to a special treatment facility in the capital.
New Scientist is reporting that monitoring shows any radiation leaks released by the incident have not spread beyond Russia.
Memorial services were held for the nuclear engineers on August 12th.
This is another tragic reminder that the only way we can prevent these kinds of accidents while saving humanity and the planet from the scourge of nuclear weapons and their byproducts is to negotiate them out of existence.