Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion

Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion

Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion

Rosatom said that its nuclear specialists were at the missile testing site to provide engineering and technical support in the aftermath of the accident.

Russia's Defense Ministry said two people died and four others were wounded Thursday when a rocket engine exploded during a test.

A further three staff members suffered injuries, including burns, and were receiving medical treatment in specialized facilities, the statement said.

The decree identified the five victims as staff of the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre.

"The radiation background level was exceeded twofold and lasted no more than an hour", he said.

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.

Reuters, citing Russian news agencies, reported that the rocket's fuel caught fire after the test, causing it to detonate, with the subsequent explosion throwing several people into the sea.

Authorities said after the incident they had shut down part of a bay in the White Sea, although public shipping information from the port of Arkhangelsk showed the area had been closed for the preceding month.

Rosatom's statement didn't say exactly what hardware was involved, but the New York Times pointed to clues that it might have been an experimental weapon.

Authorities in Severodvinsk, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the test site, said Thursday on their website that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city "recorded a brief rise in radiation levels" around noon that day.

Military and government authorities have given scant details about the incident, which the Defense Ministry said occurred in the Barents Sea and was one of Russia's worst submarine disasters in years.

But news of the accident prompted Severodvinsk residents to rush to pharmacies for iodine, which can help prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radiation.

Citing data from the Emergency Situations Ministry, Greenpeace said radiation levels had risen 20 times above the normal level in the city.

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 Friday explosions at the ammunition depot near the city of Achinsk in eastern Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region were caused by lightning, the Russian Defence Ministry said, according to state news agency Tass.

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