As always gleaning information from Russian mishaps is difficult, but here is what we know. At least five are dead at a military unit in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region, where a series of explosions have rippled through the Russian military sites in recent days., beginning two days ago on August 8th.
The official statement should be taken with an ocean’s worth of salt:
“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.
According to the Russian defense ministry (not known as a transparent bastion of truth) the fire broke out after a reaction engine exploded on August 8 “when testing a liquid propulsion system.”
What is a liquid propulsion system? A jet engine? A car engine? I am not trying to make light of the deaths, not at all. I am emphasizing the worthlessness of the released information.
Still. We get to the very concerning part, the all-too-believable-part.
Regional authorities, as opposed to the Russian Defense Ministry, said the explosion and fire took place near the town of Nyonoksa, where a navy ballistic-missile test range for nuclear submarines is located.
Back to the Defense Ministry to receive assurances that “no harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere,” the Defense Ministry said, adding that “radiation levels are normal.”
The nearby city of Severodvinsk, 30 kilometers away, said a “brief spike” in radiation levels was registered after the blast.
“Sensors in Severodvinsk recorded a short-term increase in radiation levels. Currently, the levels have returned to normal,” according to a statement on the city’s website, citing readings between 11:50 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. local time.
The city’s website? The same city in which mass panic would ensue if the website noted catastrophic levels of radiation floated in their midst? This again is speculation but …
Here is the problem, radiation levels do not just “spike” for an hour, at least none that I have never heard of. Nor does radiation magically go away quickly. Much of it may leave the area on its way to spread out elsewhere, but it doesn’t go away.
We now move to a more reliable source, and this is scary. Greenpeace states that radiation levels had risen 20 times above normal in the city. Note that statement does not say that those levels have come down, nor does it state that the normal radiation levels in the city meet normal levels elsewhere. They leave those points open ended. Pharmacies in the city report being sold out of iodine. The article doesn’t say who purchased the iodine so quickly, one is left to wonder if the military moved in to buy it up.
More troubling, the blast is just one of three that has rippled through the facility in recent days. Your guess is as good as mine as to how a series like that could possibly happen. One is left to wonder if the nuclear danger resulted from the first explosion, and then an intentional series followed, ones that could be used as models for scientists to examine – from afar – and agree that there is no nuclear threat, not knowing they are not being shown the original explosion. That is truly a guess.
One American-scientist noted that the pattern seems to follow the Soviet government’s attempt to slow walk the news out of Chernobyl – though I am not stating that the blast matches the level of danger brought about by Chernobyl.
Also peculiar, the Russian investigative agency said possible violations at the site concerning the handling of weapons may have played a role in the explosions, which prompted a state of emergency in the surrounding region.
Make of that statement what you will. I am speculating again, but a “state of emergency” in the Arctic doesn’t sound consistent with engine mishandlings, and “handling of weapons” generally doesn’t spark a series of explosions.
None of this makes any sense, except that local authorities recorded a giant spike in radiation at the time and place of one of the explosions, and that the news flow out of Russia matches that which one would expect from a serious accident.
I will follow up.