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Home / czechrepublic / :: OSEL.CZ :: – What do we really know about the blast at a military training ground in the Arkhangelsk area

:: OSEL.CZ :: – What do we really know about the blast at a military training ground in the Arkhangelsk area

On August 8, 2019, a collision and explosion occurred at a military missile range about 30 km from Severodvinsk in a military range. Closest to the polygon is the village of Nyonokse. Accident data was, and is, very leaky and inconsistent.

At first, it appeared that two workers from the Ministry of Defense were killed and six were injured after the explosion on the White Sea test platform. Five (more?) Rosatom workers were later killed and three workers injured. It is clear that nuclear technology is also used here. The five Rosatom workers killed were linked to the Sarov Nuclear Research Institute. Late information about their deaths was justified by Rosatom's statement that they had been deleted from the platform, and initially there was a possibility that they could still be alive. Workers have been rewarded, and recordings of the funeral in Sara have been broadcast not only on the Internet.

The injured workers were transported to the hospital. According to some unofficial reports, they should be contaminated. Many statements about the state of radiation have appeared and disappeared in connection with the accident. From these, the radiation dose rate appears to have increased 16 to 20 times in the immediate area by half to an hour relative to the local natural background, which is about 0.1 microSivers per hour. The maximum, then, is about 2 microSivers per hour. This was recorded according to published reports of some measuring stations, for example in the mentioned Severodvinsk. The total dose received is essential. This is negligible in this case compared to the dose obtained from the natural background. There is no health risk. Although it should be borne in mind that official reports of increased radiation do not speak.

It has also been reported that Finnish seismologists have experienced a magnitude 2.8 earthquake in connection with the event

Funeral of the victims of the accident (Rosatom source via AP).

Funeral of the victims of the accident (Rosatom source via AP).

Even less information is about the tested equipment that crashed. Above all, we do not know what actually went down. It is conceived that this could be a new version of the "Burevestnik" rocket, which should contain a radionuclide generator or a small fission reactor as an energy source. This should not only improve his reach. The ownership of these new weapons has long been unveiled by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Even if this were true, we still do not know what failed. We do not know if the source of the explosion and the fall was nuclear or conventional rocket technology.

According to "official" Russian sources, however, it was not Burevestnika, but the first test of a new classic liquid-fueled rocket engine, containing separate fuel and an oxidizer. Instead of the classic electric battery, it uses a radionuclide generator to supply the energy needed to start the engine. And such sources of radionuclides are being developed by the nuclear center in Sarov (All-Russian Institute for Experimental Physics). Sam Sarov is a former closed city. The institute itself is focused on nuclear space and military applications.

Radionuclide sources are used in space as well as on earth. The advantage in this case should be a very stable supply of electricity and heat, which would allow for long-term suitable thermal conditions for the operation and maintenance of a liquid rocket engine. Its charge is sensitive to maintaining the required heat conditions. At the scheduled time, the generator will also provide energy for starting the fuel and starting the engine.

If that were the case, then the engine itself would be behind the collision. Recall that liquid propellant rocket motors are more dangerous than solid propellant engines in this regard. The question remains how the explosion of the fuel on the engine was triggered and whether the generator nuclide generator could survive the whole. It is a relatively compact armored device that can be designed so that even a missile explosion survives undamaged. In this case, however, radioactivity would not enter the environment. Thus, if the measurement of the dose rate increase is correct, it is clear that the explosion generator was destroyed in the explosion.

The White Sea Twin Bay was closed for a month. Obviously, it is mainly the secrecy of the wreckage of destroyed equipment or even the source of radionuclides.

Map of location of measuring stations in Norway. Svanhovd is the bottom two (DSA source) of the two far right.

Map of location of measuring stations in Norway. Svanhovd is the bottom two (DSA source) of the two far right.

Detection of radioactive iodine 131 in Norway

Announced on August 15th Norwegian Nuclear Safety Administrationthat one of his observatories, which monitors radioactivity in the air, has detected weak traces of radioactive iodine 131. Recall that it is a device that filters 40 to 900 m3 air per hour over several days. It filters dust and aerosol particles from extremely large amounts of air in the filters. Specific filtering for the measurement of radioactive iodine was held from 9 to 12 August. A detailed description of such extremely sensitive measurements in Europe and other iodine recordings 131 is also described in the Czech National Institute for Radiation Protection, which is of high quality. article a analysis one particular case.

The half-life of radioactive iodine 131 is approximately eight days. Used for medical diagnostics and therapy. So, in Europe, there are cases where a certain amount leaks in its production or in hospital applications. For example, the Norwegian authorities mention that there are six to eight cases of such records per year. However, as in the latter, these are extremely low activities of this radionuclide. The exact source is usually not determined. Therefore, the current observations may not be related to the White Sea accident.

However, if the accident was the source, then it is clear that a nuclear fission reactor is present. In fact, iodine 131 is a common fission product that is easily released from the reactor. If other fission products were also recorded with iodine 131, the situation would be clear. In this case, it would not come from medical applications, but the source should be the triggering or short-term shutdown of the fission reactor. However, the Norwegians were no longer recording. However, this should not exclude the link from the accident in Severodvinsk. The long-lived radionuclides in the atmosphere contain the remains of what was received in nuclear weapons tests and during the Chernobyl accident. Iodine is also released much better than many other elements. The chances of him catching long distances from a collision are greater.

Once again I would point out that the measured trace of iodine 131 is extremely weak. It can only be recorded because the energy of the emitted gamma-ray photons enables accurate identification and detection of individual atoms. At the same time, there are normally no atoms of this short-lived radionuclide in the atmosphere. When measuring the total dose rate, there was no deviation in value corresponding to the natural background at Svanhovd station and others. In Norway, it will attempt to make more detailed measurements with filter measurements in a shorter time sequence. However, the question is whether new information can be obtained. The problem is mainly the short half-life of iodine 131.

Examples of some dosimetry devices in the Norwegian network (DSA source).

Examples of some dosimetry devices in the Norwegian network (DSA source).


The information we have, although very scarce, indicates that health and environmental risks are low. On the contrary, I see a big problem and extreme risk in the way we inform and above all the secrecy associated with the case. In this case, the reference to the Chernobyl disaster is probably quite justified. Unfortunately, rocket test accidents accompany their development and cannot be completely avoided. It is also in the civilian sector, as Elon Musk or Richard Branson found out. And human sacrifices cannot be ruled out. A certain and high level of secrecy in the military area is also understandable. On the other hand, in a situation where an accident is still occurring with the release of environmentally hygienic substances, it is necessary to inform the residents of the neighboring regions as seriously as possible about the event and its impacts. Even if the extreme health and environmental risks prove negligible. It is precisely in the radioactivity-related fields that society, and especially the people concerned, are very sensitive to the lack of serious information. Even in Chernobyl, the greatest damage was often caused by secrecy and an insensitive approach to reporting the aftermath of an accident. This is what HBO's Chernobyl series largely described, as I described it of this article.

And in my opinion, the responsible people in this area associated with the Russian state and its Ministry of Defense have failed. There has been a dramatic failure in the Rosatom information field and I suspect that this will advertise him very negatively even in the civilian part of the activity. This raises a big question mark about his will or ability to keep him honest, relevant and brief. Even things that can have a direct impact on the general public.

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