Something strange happened this past week near Nyonoksa, Russia. There was an explosion. There was a radiation spike. Five Russian personnel were
killed. Information is dribbling out. The Russians are slowly fessing up to what happened. However, details are very, very elusive and there is an
enormous amount of speculation.
Nyonoksa, Russia is in the Archangelsk Oblast (district) near Severodinsk and Archangels. It is located off the east shore of the White Sea and in
the general vicinity of a lot of Russian naval bases. Map link
. The accident or incident didn't
happen at the town itself though, but rather at a site nearby.
On August 8th, an accident took place. The accident was supposedly due to rocket fuel catching fire and five people have so far have died. The
reports initially just stated there was an accident with a rocket. This happens rockets having far, far more energy stored in them than even a 747
and when precautions are not sufficiently taken, people die. It even happens here: ask the Challenger astronauts or Virgin Galactic employees. It
would have been a tragedy rather than a mystery.
Radiation counters spiked in in Nyonoksa, Russia and elsewhere. The radiation levels spiked to 20x the norm. And then returned to normal within
days. Even possibly a day. The Norwegians reported no spike in Norway. Therein lies the mystery.
Had this been a case where a nuclear weapon or whatnot had had a subcritical explosion, the fallout would have contaminated the area and the radiation
would be persistent and VERY detectable with the cloud it would have generated in Norway. Yet it did not. Whatever caused the spike did so with a
gas or something very transiently and easily dispersible.
The Moscow initially denied there was no radiation spike. They originally stated there was an explosion with a liquid fuel rocket engine. Now they
are saying the stating the 5 killed were working on
tope power sources
.' Yet, they still deny the radiation release: the city of Nyonoksa stated there was a radiation spike though and there was
a run on iodine in town (iodine can protect the thyroid from radiation damage).
This has increased the speculation as to what happened. The
(and others) have suggested there was an explosion related to the Burevestnik
powered cruise missile the Russians have been working on. This uses an exposed nuclear reactor to heat air into providing thrust. This was explored
by the US in Project Pluto
back in the 1960s/1970s. A premature or accidental test run would
fit the profile for the radiation spike, but would not be a match for the description of an explosion: the engine exhaust can be radioactive even if
no radioactive material from the engine is lost. The workers being present when the engine started and unexpectedly would also fit why they died and
what they were doing.
If the workers were killed in an accidental test, it would be a massive case of negligence. Worse than that, actually. Heads ought to be rolling so
much that Putin could field a bowling team using the severed heads as bowling balls.
Burevestnik is an air launched weapon. Russia has been testing it over in Siberia. Archangelsk's area is more purely naval. The location seems
rather strange for the Burevestnik then unless they were working on it to integrate with naval assets. Possible, but strangely premature. The weapon
is still in very early testing and the flight regime is still being expanded. Adding the capability to, say, the Tu-144 Backfires, would be really
dumb at this point. Likewise attempting to do the same with a sub or surface ship is also stupid: with money tight in the Russian defense budget,
getting the missile working ought to come first and the Russians are far from stupid in that regard. This greatly decreases the possibility of the
Burevestnik being the source of the radiation.
Another possibility is a nuclear sub had to do an emergency reactor venting after an explosion took place. Nuclear missiles in the US are almost
always solid propellant for the storability and simplicity of the rocket. Some in Russian are. Some are not. Liquid propellants perform far, far
better and most Russian submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) liquid propellant. However, if there was an explosion damaging a ballistic
missile sub, it would probably be still spewing radiation and it would have been detectable in Norway.
Another possibility is the explosion and the radiation leak were from difference incidents. There are a lot of radiation sources (exposed reactor
cores and whatnot) in the Kola Peninsula left over from the Soviet Union. Russia was cleaning these up. However, the transient nature of the source
would be an argument against this source. Additionally, the fact Moscow has stated those who died were working on an 'isotope power source' would
also suggest otherwise.
So, the mystery remains.
What caused the radiation spike? Why did it clear so quickly? What is going on on the shores of the White Sea?
We just don't know.