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Anxiety in Norway over Russia’s missing reactor-powered cruise missile in the Barents Sea

«There is no reason for any state to have a nuclear-powered missile»

Russia’s missing reactor-powered cruise missile in the Barents Sea obviously causes concerns, says Norway’s Environment Minister, Ola Elvestuen. Barents Observer ByThomas Nilsen  August 23, 2018

«We have to take this seriously. From an environmental point of view this obviously causes concern,» Minister Elvestuen says to the Barents Observer.

Norway and Russia share the stocks of cod in the Barents Sea, a multi-billion business and important for tens of thousands of dinner-tables across Europe every day. A missing reactor-powered missile is no good news.

On Wednesday, Minister Ola Elvestuen met with the Barents Observer at the Fram Center in Tromsø, a Arctic climate and research center where also Norway’s High North section of the Radiation Protection Authority opened its new offices and lab.

«A possible missing nuclear-powered missile in important fishing grounds of the Barents Sea shows the importance of having a radiation emergency preparedness unit in Tromsø,» Elvestuen says.

First made public by President Vladimir Putin in March this year, the existence of a nuclear-powered cruise-missile was shown in a defense ministry video of the test-launching. Putin told that during the flight, the missile reached its design capacity and provided necessary propulsion. That would mean a start of the reactor, although the reactor going critical is not confirmed. During initial launch, the missile lifts off with regular fuel as can be seen in the video.

August 23, 2018

«We have to take this seriously. From an environmental point of view this obviously causes concern,» Minister Elvestuen says to the Barents Observer.

Norway and Russia share the stocks of cod in the Barents Sea, a multi-billion business and important for tens of thousands of dinner-tables across Europe every day. A missing reactor-powered missile is no good news.

On Wednesday, Minister Ola Elvestuen met with the Barents Observer at the Fram Center in Tromsø, a Arctic climate and research center where also Norway’s High North section of the Radiation Protection Authority opened its new offices and lab.

«A possible missing nuclear-powered missile in important fishing grounds of the Barents Sea shows the importance of having a radiation emergency preparedness unit in Tromsø,» Elvestuen says.

First made public by President Vladimir Putin in March this year, the existence of a nuclear-powered cruise-missile was shown in a defense ministry video of the test-launching. Putin told that during the flight, the missile reached its design capacity and provided necessary propulsion. That would mean a start of the reactor, although the reactor going critical is not confirmed. During initial launch, the missile lifts off with regular fuel as can be seen in the video………..

Attention to possible incidents or accidents involving nuclear reactors are raising in Norway, not least because of the increasing number of nuclear powered submarines sailing in Arctic waters. Both Northern Fleet submarines from  bases on the Kola Peninsula and U.S. or British submarines making port calls to Northern Norway.

For the nuclear experts at NRPA in Tromsø though, the news about testing of reactor-powered missile and crashes are worrying. From Russia, little information about what’s going on is available. The missile program is surrounded by secrecy by the military………

Intelligence service confirms crashes

Norway’s military intelligence confirms to the Barents Observer their knowledge about two of the tested missiles failing during flight.

«The intelligence service confirms that Russia in November 2017 conducted two failed test-shootings of a new land-based cruise-missile from a temporarily test range at Novaya Zemlya. The first failed shortly after launch and fell down on the island. The other had a longer flightpath before failing or the test was aborted. That missile fell down in the sea near the shores on the west coast of Novaya Zemlya,» says Major Brynjar Stordal, spokesperson with the Joint Headquarters.

He says the intelligence service connects the tests to the new weapon President Putin described earlier this year. «It is indicated that the new missile is using a reactor-propulsion system. The intelligence service can not confirm that the missiles tested in November 2017 had such propulsion system,» Stordal says.

Also, the intelligence service has so far not registered, or received any information about, unormal levels of radiation from this area that is located some 800 kilometers from Norway……..

Small reactor, little radiation

In July, the Russian online Popular Mechanics published a longer article about the new missile powered by a small reactor. The article argues that the reactor could be a fast neutron reactor like the largest space reactors used by the Soviet Union. Also, the core may consist of Americium-242.

The reactor is very small in size, maybe less than half a meter.

Nils Bøhmer, nuclear physicist with Bellona says such reactor core might be possible. «It would then need less fissionable material to reach critical mass and consequently it would be less radioactivity compared with amore traditional reactor with uranium fuel,» Bøhmer says.

He underlines that there are many unanswered questions and a lot of uncertainty  regarding such untested technology.

Testing a missile with a small nuclear reactor will, whatever, involve a calculated radiation risk. Any missile launched will have to come down, whether it is by accident or it hits its designated target. https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2018/08/there-no-reason-any-state-have-nuclear-powered-missile

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August 25, 2018 - Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war

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