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Trump’s friendliness with Putin makes it hard for NATO to do anything about Russia’s weapons tests and radioactive explosion

Russia’s nuclear weapons tests were linked to a radioactive explosion. Trump’s friendliness with Putin makes it hard for NATO to do anything about it. Business Insider, MITCH PROTHERO, AUG 29, 2019   

August 31, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Examining the radioactive isotopes from Russia’s mystery explosion

How nuclear scientists are decoding Russia’s mystery explosion. Isotopes that caused a radiation spike earlier this month probably came from an exploding nuclear-reactor core — but device’s application is still unknown. Nature, Elizabeth Gibney , 30 Aug 19, 

Rumours continue to swirl about a blast at a Russian naval base on 8 August, which killed five scientists and caused a short, unexplained spike in γ-radiation.

Information has been slow to emerge and confused by conflicting reports, but this week, Russia’s weather agency, Roshydromet, finally revealed details about the nuclear radiation that was released.

The information suggests that a nuclear reactor was involved in the blast, which lends weight to the theory that Russia was testing a missile known as Burevestintnik, or Skyfall. President Vladimir Putin told Russia’s parliament in 2018 that the nation was developing the missile, which is propelled by an on-board nuclear reactor and could have unlimited range.

But because official information about the cause could be scarce, independent researchers are finding ways to glean more details about the explosion.

Nature examines the growing evidence.

What have official sources said about the blast?

The explosion happened at a military facility in northwestern Russia’s Arkhangelsk region. The region is home to Nenoksa, one of the Russian Navy’s major research and development sites.

A day after the blast, Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, said that an accident happened during “tests on a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes” and later added that the incident happened on an offshore platform.

Meanwhile, Roshydromet reported a brief spike in γ-radiation at 16 times the normal level in the city of Severodvinsk, around 30 kilometres east of Nenoksa.

On 26 August, Roshydromet revealed the isotopes found in rain and air samples: strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140 and lanthanum-140.

What do we know about the scientists who died?

Rosatom named the dead scientists as Alexei Viushin, Evgeny Kortaev, Vyacheslav Lipshev, Sergei Pichugin and Vladislav Yanovsky. It’s not clear whether they were killed when thrown off the sea platform, or after being exposed to radiation……..

What do the isotopes tell us?

The detected isotopes of barium, strontium and lanthanum would be created in the core of a nuclear reactor, which produces energy by splitting uranium atoms in a chain reaction. These isotopes would have been released if a core exploded, says Claire Corkhill, a nuclear scientist at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Any damage an explosion might have caused to the reactor core would probably have led to the release of radioactive iodine and caesium, says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear scientist at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the environment investigation firm Boston Chemical Data Corp, both in Massachusetts. An uncorroborated report in The Moscow Times on 16 August said that local doctors had traces of caesium-137 in their muscle tissue. And a Norwegian nuclear authority detected an unexplained spike in radioactive iodine-131 almost 700 kilometres away in Svanhovd after the blast. But this could be from another source: iodine-131 can be released in small quantities during the production of radionuclides for medical purposes, says Corkhill.

Boris Zhuikov, head of the Laboratory of Radioisotope Complex at the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, has an alternative explanation. His calculations show that if an explosion damaged the housing of a nuclear reactor, rather than the core, and caused a leak of radioactive noble gases — which are a product of fission — then by the time the nuclei reached the detector in Severodvinsk they would have decayed to leave precisely the isotopes observed.

But Kaltofen cautions that circumstantial evidence points to damage to a reactor core……..

August 31, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia Spreads Influence in Africa Using Nuclear Power

Russia Spreads Influence in Africa Using Nuclear Power – Reports, Moscow Times, 30 Aug 19, Russia is working to win influence in at least 10 African states with high-cost nuclear technology that for the most part does not suit their needs, researchers and NGOs have told The Guardian newspaper.

With booming exports, nuclear energy is one example of Russia’s increasing presence in Africa in recent years. Elsewhere, a businessman known as “Putin’s chef,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, is widely reported to be spearheading Russia’s push to exchange security and electioneering services for mining rights in Africa.

Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom has approached the leaders of “dozens” of African countries with various nuclear energy projects in the past two years, The Guardian reported Wednesday. Rosatom has existing deals with Egypt and Nigeria and other various agreements with other countries on the continent.

Few African countries have the capacity to distribute the amount of nuclear energy generated by the type of reactors that Rosatom is exporting, experts told the outlet. Observers also noted that the costly projects favored by Rosatom likely wouldn’t benefit Africa’s poorest populations……..

August 31, 2019 Posted by | AFRICA, marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

Russia fears fatal consequences if the NEWSTART nuclear arms treaty is allowed to lapse

August 26, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A Small Nuclear Reactor exploded in Russian accident – fallout isotopes prove this

Isotopes’ Composition Proves Nuclear Reactor Was Involved in Russian Explosion, Expert Says

Analyses of the radionuclides in the fallout over Severodvinsk show several isotopes that would not have been present if was a simple RTG in the explosion.

August 26, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Russia launched two ballistic missiles from nuclear-powered submarines in the Arctic Ocean and the Barents Sea

Russia says it launched 2 ballistic missiles in the Arctic Ocean as part of combat training By Amir Vera, CNN August 25, 2019  Russia launched two ballistic missiles from nuclear-powered submarines in the Arctic Ocean and the Barents Sea on Saturday, according to a tweet from the Russian Ministry of Defense.

August 26, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Contradictory reports from Russia, over the Aug. 8 nuclear incident

August 26, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia | Leave a comment

Fish transport around Scandinavia in nuclear-powered Russian ship

August 26, 2019 Posted by | Russia, technology | Leave a comment

Radioactive patients – a concern following Russian nuclear accident

Russian nuclear accident: Medics fear ‘radioactive patients’,  23 Aug 19, Russian medics who treated radiation victims after a military explosion in the Arctic had no protection and now fear they were irradiated themselves.

Two of the medics in Arkhangelsk spoke to BBC Russian about the victims’ evacuation, on condition of anonymity.

Five nuclear engineers died on 8 August when an “isotope-fuel” engine blew up at the Nyonoksa test range, officials said. Two military personnel also died.

President Vladimir Putin said the test involved a new weapon system.

Six people were injured in the accident, but officials gave few details about it.

On 14 August Russia’s weather service Rosgidromet revealed that radiation levels had spiked 16 times above normal, in Severodvinsk, a city 47km (29 miles) east of Nyonoksa.

According to the official data, the radiation that reached Severodvinsk was not heavy enough to cause radiation sickness.

Experts in Russia and the West say the test was most likely linked to the new 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, called “Skyfall” by Nato. Last year Mr Putin said the technology would give the missile “unlimited” range.

The Arkhangelsk medics, who spoke to the BBC’s Pavel Aksenov, said at least 90 people came into contact with the casualties, but the military did not warn them of any nuclear contamination risk.

Contamination fears

The medics were at the civilian Arkhangelsk regional hospital, which treated three of the injured, while three other casualties were taken to an Arkhangelsk hospital called Semashko, which is equipped for radiation emergencies.

The medics said they were speaking out now because they feared for their own health and did not want any similar “[safety] violations” to recur.

“We don’t want them to bring us next time not three, but ten people, God forbid, and hide the information from us again,” said one.

The degree of secrecy surrounding the explosion has drawn comparisons with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when Soviet officials were slow to admit the truth.

The Arkhangelsk medics said it was clear that the three brought to their regional hospital were very sick. Doctors examined them in the emergency room, then sent them to an operating theatre.

But the emergency room continued to admit other patients for about an hour, the medics said, until the doctors realised that the three “had received a very high radiation dose”. The hospital handles pregnancy complications and other difficult medical conditions.

“The radiation picture was developing by the hour. Blood tests were being done, and every hour you could see that this or that cell count was plunging. That signified a very high radiation dose,” they said.

The hospital staff kept treating the victims despite knowing about the radiation dose. The staff had to improvise some self-protection – for example, they took face masks from the helicopter crews’ emergency kit.

The next day the three victims were transferred to a hospital in Moscow which has radiation specialists. Their condition now is unknown.

Nuclear decontamination

A military team later carried out decontamination work in the Arkhangelsk hospital.

The medics said the casualties’ clothing was removed, along with stretchers and a “highly radioactive bath”.

“Our cleaners should have been advised, they’re just simple country folk, they were just picking up sacks and bundles and carrying them out,” said one.

The other medic said hospital staff were now mentally stressed, knowing that radiation safety information had been withheld from them during the emergency.

Two weeks after the explosion the Russian health ministry said none of the medics at the Arkhangelsk hospitals had received a hazardous radiation dose. Its conclusion was based on medical examination of 91 staff.

Incomplete data

On Monday an international nuclear agency reported that the two Russian radiation monitoring stations nearest to Nyonoksa had gone offline soon after the explosion. The revelation fuelled suspicions that the radiation could have been heavier than officially reported.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said the technical failure at those sites was then followed by a failure at two more. It tweeted an animation showing the potential radiation plume from the explosion.

Russia said the weapons test was none of the CTBTO’s business, and added that handing over radiation data was voluntary. Two of the monitoring stations have since started working again.


August 24, 2019 Posted by | health, Russia | Leave a comment

“ZATO” Russia’s many closed cities, – some site of nuclear accidents

August 24, 2019 Posted by | Reference, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Kremlin cover up on weapon tested, and radioactive contamination?

Russian radiation detectors ‘go dark’ after mystery explosion
The mysterious shutdown of four nuclear monitoring stations after a fatal blast at a military site has fuelled fears of radioactive contamination. 22 Aug 19

Russian officials have dismissed concerns, declaring on Tuesday the country had no obligation to share its data with the CNTBTO — raising fears of a Kremlin cover up on the type of weapon involved and the extent of contamination.

Elevated radiation levels — of up to 16 times the average — were detected 40 km away in the city of Severodvinsk in the aftermath of the event, according to The New York Times.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday there was no risk to the public, although officials have yet to disclose how much radiation was released………

US National Nuclear Security Administration former deputy William Tobey said it was “at least an odd coincidence” Russian sensors stopped transmitting data about the same time as the explosion occurred.

“Power outages, other failures, can knock down a particular place, but if more than one site is out, it would seem that that is a less likely explanation,” Mr Tobey said.

Russian authorities have offered changing and contradictory information about the explosion fuelling speculation about what really happened and what type of weapon was involved.

While the Russian Defense Ministry said no radiation had been released in a rocket engine explosion, officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported a brief rise in radiation levels.

The contradiction drew comparisons to Soviet attempts to cover up the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

In his first comments on the explosion, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that it hasn’t posed any radiation threat. Putin added that experts are monitoring the situation to prevent any “unexpected developments.”

He didn’t say what weapon was being tested when the explosion occurred, but described the

test as a “state mission of critical importance.”…….

The Russian military said the explosion killed two people and injured six, while the state nuclear corporation Rosatom acknowledged later that it also killed five of its engineers and injured three others.

Rosatom said the explosion occurred on an offshore platform during tests of a “nuclear isotope power source.”……

Rosatom’s mention of a “nuclear isotope power source,” led some observers to conclude that the weapon undergoing tests was the “Burevestnik” or “Storm Petrel,” a prospective nuclear-powered cruise missile first mentioned by Putin in 2018 and was codenamed “Skyfall” by NATO.

US President Donald Trump backed that theory in a tweet last week, saying America is “learning much” from the Skyfall explosion.

The US worked to develop a nuclear-powered missile in the 1960s under Project Pluto, but the idea was discarded as impractical and risky. Mr Tobey said Russia’s apparent revival of the concept raises significant risks.

“Effectively, Russia is thinking about flying around nuclear reactors,” he told AP.

“The very idea of this system is, I think, a risky system. It probably poses more risk to the Russian people than to the American people. If it crashes, it could spread radiation.”

Nuclear expert Michael Krepon, who co-founded the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan public policy research body, said it was not surprising that Russia might take steps to conceal its activities because “they just can’t accept transparency when it comes to screw ups”.

“This weapon poses a danger first and foremost to the people who are working on it,” Mr Krepon said.

“It’s dumb, it’s stupid, it’s expensive, and there are so many other ways that you can deliver nuclear weapons long distance. The more Putin advertises this system, the more he’s likely to be embarrassed by it.”

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Two victims of mysterious Russian missile blast ‘died of radiation sickness’

August 22, 2019 Posted by | health, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Safety concerns about floating nuclear reactors, and Rosatom admits that electricity from small floating nuclear reactors is more expensive.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, business and costs, Russia, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Burevestnik, SKYFALL nuclear weapons – “of course, it’s a dick-measuring contest,”

The Absurd Strategy Behind Russia’s Nuclear Explosion, A radioactive mess near the Arctic Circle suggests our next superpower arms race will be even more foolish than the last one. New Republic , By ANKIT PANDA, August 22, 2019, The United States and Russia are entering a new arms race, and the costs aren’t just monetary. On August 8, Russian civilians around the remote village of Nyonoksa found themselves downwind of a military nuclear propulsion experiment gone wrong in the White Sea, just outside the Arctic Circle. According to the Russian ministry of defense, a liquid propellant rocket engine had gone awry and exploded.

The exact sort of weapon Russia may have been testing is unknown, but the balance of evidence points to a probable culprit: the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile. Nuclear nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis and his team of researchers out in Monterey, California, have done much of the work in compiling this evidence, which includes the presence of a nuclear fuel carrier ship that was known to have been involved in recovery efforts after a previous failed test of the missile. Known in NATO countries as the SSC-X-9 SKYFALL, the Burevestnik’s atomic propulsion is said by Russian state media to give the missile “almost unlimited range, non-predictable trajectory and high air defense penetration capacity.”……..

In the end, much of what may be driving investment and research on this weapon—beyond Putin’s chest-thumping—may be the sprawling and influential Russian defense bureaucracy. (Overspending on exotic military systems is not an exceptionally American trait.)

That’s the shaky strategic logic behind it. But the common-sense logic, as the radioactive Nyonoksa explosion shows, is even less kind. If a nuclear-powered cruise missile sounds exotic and a little dangerous, that’s because it is. Missiles go boom—usually intentionally, but often enough not—and whatever nuclear power source they might be using onboard wouldn’t be immune.

There’s still little consensus among American experts about how exactly the Burevestnik might leverage nuclear power for propulsion. If you thought nuclear fission weapons were complex, nuclear rocket propulsion is more arcane and mysterious still. In the 1950s and 1960s, U.S. scientists drafted fanciful plans to give missiles nuclear engines, on the assumption that they’d be able to fly longer and farther than any weapon yet conceived. But the Americans eventually gave up; the technical challenges and environmental risks weren’t worth it. The Russians haven’t given up just yet, but they may someday…..

For the Russian leadership, a weapon like Burevestnik is a prestige project, a way to set Moscow apart from its competition……

Of course, Donald Trump couldn’t stomach another head of state flaunting his fancy rocket. The president tweeted on August 12 that the United States has “similar, though more advanced, technology.”  As nuclear chemist Cheryl Rofer observed, this was a rare tweet by Trump’s standards: one that criticized Russia. “And of course, it’s a dick-measuring contest,” Rofer added. (Trump’s done this before, chiding North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Twitter over the size of his “nuclear button.”) To the extent he grasps the salient issues, it’s likely the president has already asked Pentagon officials why the United States doesn’t have a nuclear-propelled cruise missile of its own.

A spokesperson for the Kremlin was blasé about the Nyonoksa explosion, stating that “accidents happen.” Yes, they do, but nuclear-powered cruise missile programs don’t just happen. They represent dangerous and unnecessary choices to goose a nation’s theoretical military supremacy, incentivizing other nations to follow suit, risks be damned. The arms control regimes that once moderated U.S. and Russian decisions are already crumbling, and another big one—the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START—may expire in 2021. What exactly transpired in the White Sea on August 8 may remain fuzzy, but what is becoming increasingly clear is the risk to life associated with a new generation of nuclear arms proliferation between the U.S. and Russia. With ultranationalist leaders and weapon fetishists in control of Washington and Moscow, buttressed by military yes-men and mercenary defense contractors, there’s little to stand in the way of a new, irrationally exuberant buildup of bizarre new nuclear forces.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russia Tells Nuclear Watchdog: Radiation From Blast Is ‘None of Your Business’

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment