Russian Federation says five died in missile test explosion

‘They were thrown into sea as it blew up’: Rosatom gives details of deadly nuke-powered engine blast

‘They were thrown into sea as it blew up’: Rosatom gives details of deadly nuke-powered engine blast

While the Russians initially denied that the explosion had a nuclear component, state news agency TASS later reported somewhat enigmatically that those who were killed during the missile test had been "involved in work related to a radioisotope power source".

The Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by state-run news outlets, said that two people died and six were injured on Thursday in an explosion of what it called a liquid propellant rocket engine.

No risky substances were released into the atmosphere, the government organisation said.

The five nuclear engineers who died were "elite" experts and "heroes" who knew of the risks and had conducted previous tests in "extraordinarily tough conditions", senior Rosatom official Valentin Kostyukov said.

Greenpeace said data from the Emergencies Ministry showed radiation levels had risen 20 times above the normal level in Severodvinsk, around 18 miles from Nyonoksa.

Asked if there had been a release of radiation as a result of the incident, the spokeswoman said Rosatom had nothing to add to statements released earlier by the defence ministry and regional authorities.

The five were killed "while testing a liquid jet propulsion system", Rosatom, which oversees all Russian nuclear projects, said in a statement on its website.

"First, Russia appears to have recently moved SSC-X-9 testing to Nenoksa". But he expressed deep skepticism over Moscow's explanation.

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"They are heroes of modern Russian Federation and we will remember them", chief Valentin Kostyukov said in a video statement posted by Sarov media.

The Soviet Union saw the world's worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, when the authorities sought to cover up the seriousness of the disaster.

Announced by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in 2018, the missile is theoretically able to use an onboard source of nuclear fuel to heat fast-moving air and fly for indefinite periods.

The concept builds on an idea originally examined by the U.S. in the late 1950s: a nuclear-powered missile able to fly vast distances powered by an on-board reactor, tracing a complex flight path to outflank enemy defences.

USA -based nuclear experts said on Friday they suspected the blast and radiation release occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile. "In the past year, Russian Federation built a launch area that closely resembles the one removed from Novaya Zemlya with a shelter on rails", he tweeted.

Lewis and his team also examined Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from ships located off the coast on the same day as the explosion.

"Second, we can see the Serebryanka, a nuclear fuel carrier, sitting off the coast inside the exclusion zone".

The president claimed the missile had successfully undergone the first tests, but observers were skeptical, arguing that such a weapon could be very hard to handle and harmful to the environment. "You need it when you recover a nuclear propulsion unit from the sea floor".

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