Russian nuclear body says deadly blast was caused by nuclear power project, not powerful new missile

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A mysterious explosion that killed five nuclear scientists on Russia’s northern frontier last week was caused by a nuclear power generator, Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear concern has said following reports the blast was related to a state-of-the art nuclear missile. 

Monitors in nearby Severodvinsk said they detected a temporary spike in radiation levels after the incident on Thursday, something the military denied.

Unconfirmed videos showed medical personnel wearing hazmat suits handling casualties. Rosatom only confirmed the death of five specialists from one of its premier research institutes on Saturday, three days later.

The company statement said only that they died during the testing of an “isotopic source of power on a liquid-fuel propulsion system.”

The specialists worked at VNIIEF, the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, where Soviet scientists worked to create the nation’s first atomic bomb. 

In separate video statement on Sunday, the head of the institute, Vyacheslav Solovyov, suggested that the five specialists were working on experimental, miniaturised nuclear power sources, including radioisotope thermoelectric generators or a new type of small nuclear reactor. 

Neither statement suggested the specialists were working on a missile. 

However, the admission that the accident involved some kind of rocket engine and the lack of transparency around the event have sparked speculation that the specialists were indeed the first casualties of one of Vladimir Putin’s new doomsday weapons.



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