Details of mysterious nuclear explosion that rocked Russia

الكشف عن تفاصيل الانفجار النووي الغامض الذي هز روسيا

Nyonoksa residents asked to leave within a day after last week’s explosion that spiked radiation levels up to 16 times.

Russian authorities have advised residents of a village to leave while clear-up work is being carried out nearby following a mysterious rocket engine accident last week that caused a temporary spike in radiation, according to a report.

Russia’s Rosatom nuclear agency said five of its staff were killed in the August 8 blast at a naval facility that tests ballistic missiles used by nuclear submarines. At least three people were injured.

The workers were providing support for the “isotope power source” of a missile and were thrown into the water from the testing platform in the White Sea by the force of the explosion.

On Tuesday, Interfax news agency cited local officials as saying they had received a notification about clear-up work being carried out by military authorities.

“In this regard, residents of Nyonoksa were asked to leave the territory of the village from August 14.”

Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, said on Tuesday its sensors in Severodvinsk – located about 30km from the test site – registered radiation exceeding background levels by “four to 16 times” on the day of the blast.

The service said the levels were higher at six out of eight of its stations in Severodvinsk and returned to normal after 2.5 hours.

One of the sensors registered a level of 1.78 microsieverts per hour, well above the local average but far below dangerous levels.

The blast caused panic, with residents rushing to buy iodide, which can help limit the damage from exposure to radiation.

Following the explosion, Russian authorities also closed part of Dvina Bay on the White Sea to shipping for a month, in what could be an attempt to prevent outsiders from seeing an operation to recover the missile debris.

Rosatom’s mention of a “nuclear isotope power source” led some Russian media to conclude it was the Burevestnik (Petrel), a nuclear-powered cruise missile first revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018 during his state of the nation address along with other doomsday weapons.

Some experts have also linked the blast to the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, known by NATO as SSC-X-9 Skyfall.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday did not confirm that the accident was linked to the Burevestnik project.

Peskov added, however, that Russian research and development in the sphere of nuclear-powered missiles “significantly surpass the level reached by other countries and are rather unique”.

Lawrence Korb, a former US assistant secretary of defence who has worked with Russia on nuclear issues and arms control, said the so-called Skyfall weapon is considered a “fantasy” by most experts in the United States as “it’s a very dangerous thing”.

“It sounds great in theory but as we’ve seen with this accident, it’s much easier said than done and the chances of having accidents are great because you have a nuclear weapon with nuclear fuel so that’s a very dangerous thing,” Korb told Al Jazeera.

“The US tried this back in the 1960s and 1970s but they gave up because they recognised it just wouldn’t work and wasn’t needed and was very dangerous.”

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Moscow on Tuesday, said information had only begun emerging five days after the blast, adding that this had created a lot of confusion and prompted the emergence of conspiracy theories.

“Soon after news came out that [residents] were ordered to leave this village within the next 24 hours, other authorities in the region have said that that was complete nonsense, that there has never been an order to evacuate,” Vaessen said.

“What we’ve been seeing in the last five days is that news and reports from different authorities are contradicting each other so we don’t really know exactly what’s going on.”

Local authorities in Severodvinsk last week initially published information about the spike in radiation, but later deleted it and a local official said that radiation levels were not above the norm.

Vaessen added that the medics who treated the victims of the blast were being sent to a Moscow hospital for testing.

“It’s also not clear what kind of tests are going to be done but it’s happening right now. According to a report, it will take three days before the results become known,” Vaessen said.

US President Donald Trump on Monday weighed in on the blast on Twitter, saying the US “is learning much from the failed missile explosion” and claimed that Washington has “similar, though more advanced, technology”.

The US and the Soviet Union pondered nuclear-powered missiles in the 1960s, but they abandoned those projects as too unstable and dangerous.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

كشف رئيس الوكالة الاتحادية للطاقة الذرية الروسية (روساتوم) الاثنين عن ملابسات وفاة خمسة خبراء نوويين في انفجار غامض في البحر.

وأكد المسؤول الروسي أن الخبراء الخمسة الذين قضوا الأسبوع الماضي في الانفجار النووي كانوا يعملون على تطوير “أسلحة جديدة”، متعهّدا بمواصلة الاختبارات “حتى النهاية” رغم الحادث.

ووقع الحادث الخميس الماضي في منشأة عسكرية بمنطقة القطب الشمالي على سواحل البحر الأبيض، إلا أن السلطات الروسية انتظرت حتى السبت لكي تقر بأنه نووي. وأدى الانفجار إلى ارتفاع وجيز في مستوى النشاط الإشعاعي.

ومنحت روسيا أوسمة للخبراء ووصفتهم بأنهم “أبطال قوميون” لقوا حتفهم، في حين أعلنت مدينة ساروف -التي تضم القاعدة الرئيسية للأبحاث النووية في روسيا- الحداد عليهم.

ونقلت وكالة “تاس” للأنباء عن مسؤولين قولهم إن النار اشتعلت في وقود الصاروخ، مما تسبب في انفجاره. وأدت قوة الانفجار إلى إلقاء عدة أشخاص في البحر.

وقال خبراء نوويون في الولايات المتحد إنهم يشتبهون في أن الانفجار حدث أثناء اختبار صاروخ كروز قادر على حمل رؤوس نووية تفاخر به الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين العام الماضي.

من جهته، وصف فالنتين كوستيوكوف رئيس مركز نووي تابع لشركة “روس أتوم” النووية الروسية المملوكة للدولة- الخبراء بأنهم “كانوا صفوة المركز النووي الاتحادي الروسي، وقاموا بالاختبار في ظل ظروف صعبة بشكل لا يصدق”.

ورغم أن وزارة الدفاع قالت في بادئ الأمر إنه لم يحدث تغيير في مستوى الإشعاع، فإن السلطات في مدينة سيفيرودفينسك القريبة تحدثت عما وصفتها بزيادة لفترة قصيرة في مستوى الإشعاع، دون إعطاء تفسير لذلك.

وإبان الحرب الباردة كانت مدينة ساروف مركزا للأبحاث السرية، وكانت تعرف باسم “أرزاماس-16″، وصُنع فيها أولى الأسلحة النووية السوفياتية. واليوم لا تزال مدينة مغلقة، ولا يُسمح بدخولها إلا لمن يحمل تراخيص خاصة. وفق الجزيرة نت.

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