The Russian military is now dealing with a second, serious accident that has garnered international attention.

Last month, I reported on a Russian submarine fire in Arctic waters that killed 14 of its crew, including several of the country’s top naval officials.

Now, five people have been killed and radiation levels subsequently spiked after a rocket engine exploded during a test in northern Russia.

The death toll from a rocket explosion at a Russian missile test range rose to five on Saturday, after initial reports listed two dead.

Defense officials have nonetheless shut down fishing, swimming and shipping traffic in a portion of the White Sea.

The explosion happened Thursday during tests on a liquid propellant rocket engine at an arctic naval range in Nyonska run by state nuclear company Rosatom, the BBC reported.

In addition to the five dead, three staffers suffered serious burns. A nearby kindergarten was also reportedly damaged, and more than 9,500 people were evacuated.

Officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported a 40-minute spike in radiation levels to 2 microsieverts per hour. Normal levels are around 0.11 microsieverts/hour.

Russia’s Nyonoksa site carries out tests for missile systems used by its navy, including sea-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and anti-aircraft missiles.

Residents in nearby Severodvinsk and adjacent areas are taking precautions related to radioactivity exposure, including taking iodine.

Local media outlet 29 spoke with several pharmacists who reported customers were seeking iodine, which can protect the thyroid from absorbing harmful radiation. Some stores reported completely running out of supplies.

A woman who claimed to work at a hospital where the injured were being treated said patients were being advised to close their windows and take iodine, according to the Russian news site Lenta.

The extent of the problem is being disputed.

The Ministry of Defense made clear that “there were no harmful emissions into the atmosphere, the radiation background is normal.” Greenpeace, on the other hand, citing data from the government’s own Emergencies Ministry, revealed that radiation levels in Severodvinsk briefly reached 20 times normal levels. Greenpeace called on the Russian government to explain the release.

…An area off the coast of Russia in the White Sea was reportedly closed for a month, but a source told the BBC the closure had been planned in advance. An official at the port of Arkhangelsk, however, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the closure was a direct result of the incident. The area is large at 250 square kilometers, or 96 miles.

While this incident doesn’t currently appear to be Chernobyl II, one has to wonder what the Russians are working on that has led to two disturbing military accidents within a month.

 
 
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