Radiation ‘spike’ and two killed in blast at Russian missile testing base
Two people have been killed when an engine exploded and burned at a Russian missile testing base, the third major fire involving the country’s military this summer.
The defence ministry said six employees of the military and a weapons developer were injured in a blast during testing of a "liquid-fuel reactive propulsion system," which then reportedly caught fire.
State media have reported that 15 people were injured.
The accident took place in the Arkhangelsk region in the far north.
Reports placed it at a base near the town of Nyonoksa where the navy tests ballistic missiles. The town is south of Russia’s main submarine-building facilities in Severodvinsk.
Authorities in the city said radiation levels had shot up briefly on Thursday before decreasing, while the defence ministry said they had remained normal.
A Russian Academy of Sciences institute said gamma radiation had temporarily reached two microsieverts an hour in Severodvinsk, recommending additional probes. Although that’s above what’s typically considered a safe level, the institute said it did not pose a “significant risk” for the Severodvinsk population.
Greenpeace, however, argued that radiation could be greater in Nyonoksa and called for testing to see if alpha and beta particles were also released.
The Arkhangelsk port said the bay near the base where the explosion occurred would be closed to shipping for the next month.
In 2015, a missile fell near a home in Nyonoksa during tests.
Interfax news agency quoted a source as saying the incident was caused by safety violations.
The incident was only the latest deadly conflagration for Russia’s armed forces.
On Monday, a massive fire set off explosions in an arms depot at a base in Siberia. One person was killed and 16,000 had to be evacuated.
In July, a fire on a nuclear-powered deep-sea submersible killed 14 sailors and nearly caused a "global catastrophe," a naval officer said at their funeral.
Russia has been pouring billions of dollars a year into modernising its military, which still relies heavily on Soviet-era equipment.
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