Russia: At least 5 dead in explosion at military test site

Erika Holt
August 12, 2019

According to the Russian nuclear company Rosatom, the rocket exploded when scientists were testing the rocket's liquid propellant engine.

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

The accident occurred during the engineering and technical support of "isotope power sources" on a liquid propulsion system, Rosatom said in a statement.

The rocket's fuel caught fire after the test, causing it to detonate and the explosion threw several people into the sea, it said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Russia's defense ministry confirmed the explosion Thursday, initially saying that two were killed and six injured in the failed test, indicating that three of those first reported injured have since died.

Kostyukov also described the tragedy as a "chain of tragic accidental events".

The statement went on to say the radiation level decreased between 11:50 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. local time.

Nevertheless, officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported that radiation levels briefly increased after the accident.

The authorities have released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles deployed in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

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"Searches continued as long as there was hope to find survivors", Interfax news agency cited Rosatom as saying. Both levels were too small to cause radiation sickness.

It's also not clear which type of rocket or fuel type was used, however, President Vladimir Putin had said that Russian Federation developed a nuclear engine for long-range missiles.

He said this exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, TASS reported. Five scientists have died in the blast, while nine are said to be injured.

"Valentin Kostyukov [RFNC-VNIIEF director] said that the deceased experts would be recommended for posthumous state awards", Rosatom said in a statement. An expert from Moscow's Institute for Nuclear Research, Boris Zhuikov, told RBK independent news site that isotope power sources are mainly used in spacecraft and are not usually unsafe for people working with them.

"If they are damaged, people who are nearby could be hurt".

On Monday, one person was killed and eight others were injured in a blaze at an ammunition dump in Siberia.

"People started to panic".

There was a rush on iodine stocks during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, which sent a huge plume of radiation across Europe.

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