Legal Insurrection readers may recall my post on the explosion off the coast of Northern Russia that killed several people and resulted in a radiation spike large enough to be detected across the Baltic. Nearby villagers were taking iodine as a precaution.

It turns out the explosion was reportedly from a new Russian superweapon that is part of its Skyfall program and was triggered when its navy was attempting to salvage the failed missile. The reason for the dearth of news is that officials were covering-up the news.

Russia covered up the deadly nuclear reactor explosion in August during the salvage at sea of one of Vladimir Putin’s new superweapons, a nuclear-powered cruise missile called Skyfall, a senior State Department official disclosed.

The reactor exploded Aug. 8 off the coast of the northern Russian town of Nenoska, killing seven Russians on a barge in the White Sea as they were overseeing the recovery of a sunken Skyfall. The missile had been sitting on the seafloor for about year after a failed flight test, said State Department official Thomas G. DiNanno.

“The explosion was caused by the Skyfall experiencing a criticality accident, an uncontrolled nuclear reaction that released a burst of radiation while Russian personnel retrieved it from the seafloor,” Mr. DiNanno said in an interview with The Washington Times.

The reactor exploded in the Arkhangelsk region in Russia’s far north near populated areas and triggered concerns about fallout spreading to the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, as well as Sweden, Denmark and Finland, he said.

“The missile sat on the seabed since its failed test early last year in close proximity to a major population center,” Mr. DiNanno said.

Interestingly, several American diplomats were stopped recently from traveling to that area.

The U.S. diplomats were reported on Wednesday to have been stopped and removed from a train travelling between the closed port city of Severodvinsk and Nenoksa, a village next to the test site on the White Sea in Russia’s Arctic.

The American embassy confirmed the incident, but said the diplomats had informed Russian authorities of their travel in advance.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the diplomats had told Russian authorities they intended to visit a different city, Arkhangelsk, which isn’t within a restricted zone, but then traveled to the closed area next to the test site.

“Clearly, they got lost,” the foreign ministry said. “We are ready to give the U.S. embassy a map.”

The ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told reporters on Thursday the American diplomats had made two attempts to reach the restricted zone, travelling to Severodvinsk, a port city that’s home to Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet, with the goal of travelling to an area near the test site.

Skyfall (aka 9M730 Burevestnik) is a Russian experimental nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile. The missile is claimed to have virtually unlimited range.

Sébastien Roblin, a military historian and university instructor for the Peace Corps in China, notes that the United States once mulled over developing similar weapons.

One concept was to use a nuclear ramjet propulsion system to create a rocket that could fly for months thanks to a small nuclear reactor on board. The ramjet functioned by sucking in onrushing air while traveling several times the speed of sound, and warming it with its small reactor. The heated air would expand and get squeezed out exhaust nozzles to result in high-speed propulsion.

The resulting Supersonic Low-Altitude Missile (SLAM) was powered by a small reactor codenamed “Pluto,” to be developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.

While proto-hippies gathered at the nearby university campus, the scientists at the laboratory, under project director Theodore Merkle, were devising a huge missile designed that would make any caught underneath it “deafened, flattened, and irradiated,” as Herken memorably put it in his article.

The project was dropped once the ICBM program was firmly established, as well as the fact Washington officials determine SLAM was too costly and too risky . . . both from a safety and political perspective.

Let’s hope the Russians have learned from this explosion.


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