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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Radiation Monitoring Stations Offline After Mysterious Russian Blast

By VOA News August 19, 2019

Four radiation monitoring stations in Russia have gone offline after a mysterious blast at a Russian missile testing facility on Aug. 8, according to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

CTBTO, an independent group that operates an international network of radiation monitoring stations, said two Russian stations closest to the blast site went offline two days after the unexplained explosion and reports of radiation spikes. Two other stations went silent on Aug. 13.

It is not clear what caused the outage or whether the stations were tampered with by Russia.

Russian officials told the CTBTO they were having "communication and network issues," a spokeswoman for the organization said Monday.

Russia's state nuclear agency has acknowledged that five nuclear workers were killed in the explosion, which occurred during a rocket engine test near the White Sea in far northern Russia.

Moscow has been vague about whether the explosion was the result of a test on a new nuclear-powered missile, as some U.S. analysts have said.

In its initial statement on the incident, the Defense Ministry said that liquid rocket fuel was the cause of the blast, but that "no harmful chemicals were released into the atmosphere."

In the hours that followed the explosion, city emergency officials in Severodvinsk reported a spike in radiation levels.

The levels were 20 times higher than normal, according to Greenpeace, which prompted the environmental group to call on federal authorities to identify exactly what kind of radiation had been released and if it was any danger to nearby residents.


U.S. analysts have focused on a possible nuclear-powered cruise missile that was being tested, something that President Vladimir Putin last year announced was under development.

In a post to Twitter on Aug. 12, U.S. President Donald Trump also asserted the incident was a failed test of a missile prototype nicknamed Skyfall by NATO experts, though he gave no evidence.

The scattered and contradictory information about what happened has led to speculation in and out of Russia that the mishap was far worse than officials have revealed.

Emergency officials, meanwhile, said that radiation levels posed no risk to people nearby, and did not exceed annual norms for humans.

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