After on Monday The Wall Street Journal reported two Russian nuclear monitoring stations “went silent” following the August 8 ‘mystery explosion’ at a missile test site in Arkhangelsk, Russia, the Kremlin is now saying there’s nothing to worry about. That explosion involving a “small-scale nuclear reactor” believed part of an experimental hypersonic missile test had caused radiation levels to spike to 20 times their normal levels.
In that WSJ report a top nuclear monitoring official, Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said that at least two nuclear data transmission stations in the region of the blast stopped transmitting in the immediate aftermath of the accident, with both locations experiencing “communication and network issues”.
The CTBTO’s IMS here comprises more than 300 seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide stations dotted around the world that together are aimed at detecting and locating a nuclear test anywhere. — Reuters
The scientist described that the organization’s global network of radioactive-particle sensors went offline days after the blast, but were quickly followed by two more, leading to suspicious that Russian authorities may have tampered with them.
Another atomic watchdog official, executive director of the Arms Control Association Daryl Kimball also said four monitoring stations going down was cause for serious alarm.
He told the Journal, “It is a very odd coincidence that these stations stopped sending data shortly after the August 8 incident.” He followed with a direct accusation: “It is probably because they want to obscure the technical details of the missile-propulsion system they are trying and failing to develop but this is not a legitimate reason to cut off test-ban monitoring data transmissions.”
But Russian officials said Tuesday “there was nothing to worry about” according to Reuters. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he was “confident that government agencies in charge of the relevant radiation monitoring stations had been doing their job correctly.”
This after President Putin said a day earlier there was no risk to residents in the towns near the northern testing facility of increased radiation levels. At least one of those towns nearest the Arkhangelsk installation was subject of a ‘strongly advised’ but supposedly “optional evacuation”. It’s also the case that in the days after the blast, pharmacies and hospitals reported a run on iodine pills (used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure) in the northern region.
Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom, admitted it had been testing an “isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system,” in the days following the accident, which had killed seven, including five scientists and technicians working on the top secret project.