Updated: 8/17/2019 10:43:10 AM
The Moscow Times reported on Friday that the doctors who treated engineers were affected by a recent explosion near a missile test site last week were not warned of the risk of radiation poisoning. The Moscow Times also reports that the physicians were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements by the FSB, the Russian security apparatus.
Eight days after the blast local woman told regional news source 29.ru that military emissaries had been sent to establish which of the 500 villagers were in Nyonoksa when the explosion occurred. She said: "There were messengers in military uniform. They wrote down the names of everyone who was here on 8 August. We were told doctors from Moscow will come here to see us." The report said such medical checks had never occurred previously, even though the village is next to a weapons testing range at land and sea.
The Burevestnik (“Storm Petrel”) is designed to evade the U.S. or any other defenses, flying for hours or even days to exploit holes in missile defense networks that most weapons can’t reach. Russia hadn't tested the weapon in nearly a year—until last week, that is. The missile is known to the U.S. intelligence community as the KY30, or the SSC-X-9 "Skyfall." In November 2017, a "moderately successful" test of Skyfall resulted in several Russian ships fishing debris and nuclear materials from the Barents Sea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially announced this weapon's existence back in March 2018, describing the missile, later named Burevestnik, as having "unlimited range and unlimited ability to maneuver." With 13 test flights and only one successful, the nuclear-powered cruise missile is still in what will likely be a long developmental period. It may never enter service.
Updated: 8/16/2019 3:26:57 PM
The three injured men arrived at the hospital around 4:30 pm, naked and wrapped in translucent plastic bags. The state of the patients made staff suspect they were dealing with something very serious. But the only information they had at the time was that there had been an explosion at a nearby military site around noon.
“No one — neither hospital directors, nor Health Ministry officials, nor regional officials or the governor — notified staff that the patients were radioactive,” one of the clinic’s surgeons told The Moscow Times by phone this week. “The hospital workers had their suspicions, but nobody told them to protect themselves.”
The official reaction has included initial denials that radiation spiked at all, and an announcement four days after the accident that the village of Nyonoksa, close to the military site, would be evacuated. Authorities later denied that they had ever ordered villagers to leave. The lack of information has led to confusion among locals, who reportedly scrambled to buy up all of the iodine, a chemical used to limit harm to radiation exposure, in the Arkhangelsk region.
They are not the only ones who have been left confused and demanding answers. Four male doctors at the Arkhangelsk hospital — two in senior positions — and a medical worker told The Moscow Times that its staff has been left shocked and angered by the events that took place. The doctors spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a period of heightened attention by Russian security services.
The doctors working in the hospital were offered a trip to Moscow for tests. All four doctors said that about 60 of their colleagues, including four or five paramedics who had transported the patients to the hospital, took up the offer. The first group flew to Moscow hours after the meeting with the Health Ministry representatives, they said.
According to three of the doctors, including both senior sources, one of the doctors flown to Moscow was found to have Caesium-137 — a radioactive isotope that is a byproduct of the nuclear fission of uranium-235 — in their muscle tissue. One of the sources said the affected doctor had told him so directly, though he was not informed about the amount or concentration of the isotope found.
Updated: 8/16/2019 2:15:27 AM
Tiny amounts of radioactive iodine have been measured in air at our air filter station in Svanhovd in Northern Norway. The level detected is very low and poses no harm to people nor the environment.
At present, it is not possible to determine if the last iodine detection is linked to the accident in Arkhangelsk last week. DSA continues more frequent sampling and analysis.
A number of seawater samples taken in and next to a ventilation pipe on Russian submarine Komsomolets have shown a level of radioactive cesium that is far higher than levels normally found in the Norwegian Sea. The highest level which has been measured in these seawater samples was 800 000 times higher than normal, Norwegian DSA released last month on their website (https://www.dsa.no/en/news/94845/releases-from-the-sunken-nuclear-submarine-komsomolets). Other samples of seawater collected from the same pipe during the expedition did not show any elevated levels.
Updated: 8/13/2019 10:58:33 AM
At the funeral of 5 victims, Rosatom chief Alexei Likhachev said: "the best way to remember them is to continue our work on new types of weapon, which will be completed without fail".
In Norway, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA) says in a press release Friday evening that the agency has reasons to believe the incident in Arkhangelsk [region] caused releases of radioactivity. DSA first said it had not got any official information about releases from Russia. None of the Scandinavian measurement stations for radioactivity have seen anything unnormal, the agency says, but underlines that the monitoring will be intensified.
Published Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Officials have raised the death toll to five people in a mysterious August 8 explosion and fire at a military unit in Russia's northwestern Arkhangelsk region, as a string of blasts has rocked Russian military sites in recent days.
"As a result of the accident at a military testing range in the Arkhangelsk region involving a liquid-fuel jet engine, five Rosatom employees died," the state-run nuclear company said on August 10, raising the number of fatalities from the two reported a day earlier.
The statement said three other staff members sustained injuries and burns of varying degrees and are receiving treatment at the hospital.
That the update was released by the state-run nuclear power agency, not the Defense Ministry, added to mounting evidence of some sort of nuclear-related accident at the site.
The Russian Defense Ministry had said a fire broke out after a reaction engine exploded on August 8 "when testing a liquid propulsion system."
Regional authorities said the explosion and fire took place near the town of Nyonoksa, where a navy ballistic-missile test range for nuclear submarines is located.
There have been "no harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere," the Defense Ministry said, adding that "radiation levels are normal."
However, the nearby city of Severodvinsk, some 30 kilometers away, said a "brief spike" in radiation levels was registered after the blast.
Citing data from the Emergency Situations Ministry, Greenpeace said radiation levels had risen 20 times above the normal level in the city.
The Arkhangelsk regional news site 29.ru said that nearly all the pharmacies in the city have been emptied of iodine drops, which are used to protect the thyroid gland from certain types of radiation.
Reuters quoted two U.S.-based nuclear experts as saying they suspected the blast and radiation release occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile that President Vladimir Putin spoke of a year ago.
"Liquid-fuel missile engines exploding do not give off radiation, and we know that the Russians are working on some kind of nuclear propulsion for a cruise missile," Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists, told Reuters.
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.
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.
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. The same weapon has failed tests 12 of 13 times, show it as not reliable.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday told that Russian research and development in the sphere of nuclear-powered missiles "significantly surpass the level reached by other countries and are rather unique".
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.
Nyonoksa Nuclear Blast Facts
Affected Area: 100 km.
Alert Level: Red
Category: Nuclear attack
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