The Kremlin won’t say much about a blast at a secretive Russian nuclear reactor.
An explosion rocked a secretive Russian nuclear test site inside the Arctic Circle last week. At first, Russian officials denied that the blast produced any radioactive activity. They also denied any evacuations would be needed.
But then authorities in a village near the explosion advised locals to vacate the town for several hours on Wednesday. Greenpeace reported that background levels of radiation in the area had spiked to 20 times normal levels. And the explosion killed at least five people, with Russia’s state atomic energy corporation finally admitting it occurred at a small nuclear reactor. The incident is the second time in two months that the Kremlin has kept a tight seal on information on disasters involving nuclear projects ― a fire aboard one of the nation’s nuclear submarines killed 14 sailors in early July. The incidents have fueled speculation about Russia’s military activities and raised alarm among arms control experts, who are concerned by the secretiveness displayed by one of the world’s premier nuclear powers about mishaps with humanity-threatening technology.
Luckily, international protocols have evolved significantly since 1986′s infamous disaster at Chernobyl, which the Soviet Union tried to minimize until widespread radiation spikes and international measurements destroyed the government’s cover story.
“It’s not like the 1980s when Chernobyl exploded and there was this really long gap,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Vermont. “It would be extremely, extremely hard to hide a nuclear disaster today.”
The new fatal blast is believed to have happened at the Nyonoksa test range in northern Russia on Aug. 8 and involved a failed test of a nuclear-powered “Burevestnik” cruise missile designed to evade missile defense systems and reach anywhere in the world, according to U.S. officials and nuclear experts.
Thanks to technological safeguards against undisclosed nuclear releases, the reality of the accident was almost immediately apparent. The Comprehensiv