A missile engine exploded at a naval test range, west of the city of Severodvinsk on Russia’s northern coast at 9am on August 8. At least five people were killed and several others injured. As it is associated with Russia’s defence programme, the incident is shrouded in mystery. But shortly after the explosion the state weather monitoring agency, Roshydromet, reported a spike in radiation 40 km away. At first, the Russian authorities denied the radiation leak, then later confirmed it. There were conflicting reports of the source of the explosion and a planned, then later cancelled evacuation of a nearby village. Unsurprisingly, tabloid media speculation followed that the Russian authorities may be hiding a Chernobyl-like accident. Missile tests don’t usually involve radioactive materials, unless the missile in question is carrying a nuclear warhead (which is prohibited under the UN’s Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). So what is going on? No one outside of the Russian government and military can yet be entirely certain but, as an academic researcher in nuclear materials, I can do my best to piece together the available evidence.
The Conversation 16th Aug 2019 read more »