Late on August 9 Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom announced the death of five of its workers. After a day of contradicting information coming from various state bodies, this finally confirmed the nuclear nature of the accident that took place in the northern Russian settlement of Nyonoksa.
Russian Defense Ministry initially denied that any emissions happened during the explosion. This did not, however, stop the radioactivity-conscious residents from buying up the entire stock of iodine in the nearby town of Severodvinsk.
The level of radiation did increase twenty-fold – albeit briefly – which in turn led to the military suggesting residents leave the settlement voluntarily, oddly enough for two hours on August 14, at the same time stressing it was not a forced evacuation. This practice is common during tests on the secret polygon located nearby. Later, however, the tests were cancelled and people were told there would be no need for the evacuation.
It is rare that information from this northern polygon is made public, and if it were not for radioactivity sensors in Severodvinsk going off, most likely the world would have never heard about the accident. Due to the substantial increase in radioactivity, the town’s administration wrote of the return of the radiation levels back to normal, thus trying to calm the population. What led to the spread of panic in the region was the decision to remove the message from the official page a few hours later. (Nuclear-powered) Streisand effect in action.
These facts along with the appearance of nuclear fuel carrier tanker Serebryanka appearing in the waters near Nyonoksa led to U.S.-based experts – who were asked by Reuters – suspecting that the events were a result of the latest unsuccessful tests of Burevestnik, a nuclear-powered and -armed cruise missile which was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018. The New York Times also confirmed the claim citing sources in U.S. intelligence.
U.S. President Donald Trump also provided a comment on his Twitter:
The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia. We have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian “Skyfall” explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2019
At the same time, Rosatom insist that the accident occurred during testing of a radioisotope power source: a nuclear battery.
/Based on Novaya Gazeta materials