Residents of Russian village near nuclear blast site told to evacuate
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Residents of Russian village near nuclear blast site told to evacuate

Radiation levels in area up to 16 times the norm after Thursday explosion at Arctic facility kills 5 scientists testing ‘new weapons’

A picture taken on November 9, 2011, shows buildings at a military base in the small town of Nyonoska in Arkhangelsk region of Russia. (AFP)
A picture taken on November 9, 2011, shows buildings at a military base in the small town of Nyonoska in Arkhangelsk region of Russia. (AFP)

Residents of a village adjacent to a Russian military site were told Tuesday to evacuate the next day after a deadly explosion at the nearby base sent radiation levels soaring.

“We have received a notification…about the planned activities of the military authorities. In this regard, residents of Nyonoksa were asked to leave the territory of the village from Aug. 14,” local officials told the Interfax news agency.

The explosion at the Arctic facility on Thursday killed five scientists with Russia’s nuclear agency, which later confirmed they were involved in testing new weapons. More victims were hospitalized.

Radiation levels were up to 16 times the norm in the area, the national weather service said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, said its sensors in Severodvinsk, a town about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Nyonoksa test site, registered gamma radiation exceeding background levels by “four to 16 times.”

A Russian military band prepares to attend the funerals of five Russian nuclear engineers killed by a rocket explosion in Sarov, 370 kilometers (230 miles) east of Moscow, which has served as a base for Russia’s nuclear weapons program since the late 1940s, in this grab taken from footage provided by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM press service, August 12, 2019. (Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM via AP)

Rosgidromet said the levels were higher at six out of eight of its stations in Severodvinsk and that levels returned to normal after 2.5 hours.

One of the sensors registered a level of 1.78 microsieverts per hour, well above the local average but far below dangerous levels.

Russia’s Rosatom nuclear agency has said its staff were providing support for the “isotope power source” of a missile and were thrown into the sea from the testing platform by the force of the explosion.

US experts have linked the incident to the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile touted by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year.

Local authorities in Severodvinsk last week initially published information about the spike in radiation, but later deleted it and a local official said that radiation levels were not above the norm.

US President Donald Trump on Monday said the United States “is learning much” from the explosion and claimed that Washington has “similar, though more advanced, technology.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday did not confirm that the accident was linked to the Burevestnik project.

Peskov added however that Russian research and development in the sphere of nuclear-powered missiles “significantly surpass the level reached by other countries and are rather unique.”

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