Friday, 06 December, 2019

Russians rush to buy iodine after blast causes radiation spike

Russians rush to buy iodine after blast causes radiation spike Russians rush to buy iodine after blast causes radiation spike
Deanna Wagner | 12 August, 2019, 08:02

Russia's state nuclear agency Rosatom says five of its staff members have been killed in an accident during tests on a military site in northern Russian Federation, the RIA news agency reports.

Russian Federation has bestowed posthumous awards on five nuclear experts and "national heroes" who died in a mysterious explosion at sea during a rocket engine test, authorities said on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear whether the death toll reported by Rosatom included the fatalities announced earlier by the defence ministry.

Russian media have said the rocket engine explosion may have occurred at a weapons testing area near the village of Nyonoksa.

Authorities initially released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles deployed in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

The nearby city of Severodvinsk reported elevated radiation levels following the accident and panicked residents rushed to buy iodine to counteract radiation. Officials responded to media inquiries on the statement said that it was taken down "because this incident comes under the authority of the defence ministry", reported the BBC.

The ministry statement came after officials in the city of Severodvinsk, roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the test site, said on their website that automatic radiation detectors in the city "recorded a brief rise in radiation levels" around noon on Thursday. No official explanation has been given for why such an accident would cause radiation to spike.

Authorities had previously said that two people died and six were injured in the blast at the site in Nyonoksa.

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The explosion led to radiation levels spiking up to 20 times above normal in the nearby city of Severodvinsk for about a half an hour, according to the Guardian.

Professor Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies said his "working hypothesis" was that the blast "was related to Russia's nuclear-powered cruise missile, the 9M730 Burevestnik (NATO name: SSC-X-9 Skyfall)".

This exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, he added. "The injured were delivered to a specialized medical institution".

There were no further details of the rocket or fuel type.

The Arkhangelsk regional news site said that almost all the pharmacies in the city have been emptied of iodine drops, which are used to protect the thyroid gland from certain types of radiation.

"Yesterday it was all sold out", one pharmacist said.

There was a rush on iodine stocks during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, which sent a huge plume of radiation across Europe.