Deadly blast at nuclear site: Was Putin testing a new intercontinental cruise missile?

National Post
Russia blast depot e National Post | James Alexander Michie

A view shows flame and smoke rising from the site of blasts at an ammunition depot near the town of Achinsk in Krasnoyarsk region, Russia August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Dmitry Dub

US intelligence officials are competing to understand a mysterious explosion that emitted radiation on the coast of northern Russia last week, apparently during the test of a new type of nuclear-powered cruise missile acclaimed by President Vladimir Putin as the centerpiece of the Moscow arms race with the United States.

Even so, it is necessary to clarify that the US officials have not said anything publicly about Thursday’s explosion, possibly one of the worst nuclear accidents in Russia since Chernobyl, although apparently on a much smaller scale, with at least seven people, including scientists, confirmed dead. However, the slow and secret response of the Russian government has caused anxiety in nearby cities and towns, in addition to that, it attracted the attention of analysts in Washington and Europe who believe that the explosion may offer a vision of technical weaknesses in the new program of arms of Russia.

The accident

Thursday’s accident occurred on the coast of the Nenoksa missile test site and was followed by what nearby local officials initially reported that there was an increase in radiation in the atmosphere.

On Sunday night, officials at a research institute that had employed five of the scientists who died confirmed for the first time that a small nuclear reactor had exploded during an experiment in the White Sea and that authorities were investigating the cause.

It should be noted that Vyacheslav Solovyov, who is the scientific director of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center, said in a video interview with a local newspaper that the institute had been studying “small-scale sources of energy with the use of fissile materials”.

Meanwhile, US intelligence officials have said they suspect the explosion involved a prototype of what NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. That is a cruise missile that Putin has boasted can reach any corner of the earth because it is fed in part by a small nuclear reactor, eliminating the usual distance limitations of conventionally fed missiles. Undoubtedly, this has added more controversy to the accident, thus attracting great attention.

Source: The New York Times — David E. Sanger And Andrew E. Kramer | National Post

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