10 Aug 2019 15:59

It's unnecessary to fear radiation contamination, drink iodine after Nyonoksa blast - expert

MURMANSK. Aug 10 (Interfax) - An explosion of the liquid-propellant rocket engine at the military range outside Nyonoksa, Arkhangelsk region, was a localized one and the population should not fear a radiation threat, Alexander Nikitin, the chairman of the boards of the St. Petersburg-based environmental advocacy center Bellona, told Interfax.

"I think that there were no discharges similar to those which, for instance, happen during accidents at nuclear power plants. If there are no discharges, there's no need to buy iodine in bulk. [...] I think one should approach this carefully and [must not] take medicine like iodine without strong recommendations, and as far as I can understand there were none," Nikitin said.

According to the expert, the work involving a liquid-propellant rocket, possibly using heptyl or other "toxic chemical substance," was conducted on the range.

"The employees, who died there, worked with radioisotope batteries, which were likely used in satellites as early as in the Soviet era, and they were also used in rocket technologies, recently," Nikitin said.

The specialized vessel Serebryanka, which transports liquid and solid radioactive waste, is working at the incident scene now, he said.

"They are probably working now on collecting all fragments of this radiation source, if they've sunk, and rendering them safe. [...] If they are lifted and removed, they are most likely to be placed in a container on the Serebryanka, and it will deliver them to a relevant storage," the expert said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on August 8 that two people were killed and six were injured as a result of explosion during tests of a rocket propulsion unit at a military testing range in the Arkhangelsk region. "There was no discharge of harmful substances into the atmosphere, and radiation levels stayed normal," the ministry said.

"The tragedy happened during the work involving engineering and technical maintenance of the isotopic batteries of the liquid-propellant engine," Rosatom said on Saturday.

Sources told Interfax that the incident happened in the Nenoksa administrative district, at the Russian Navy's central naval testing range (Sopka). Nenoksa is located 40 kilometers from Severodvinsk.

Rosatom said earlier on Saturday that its five employees were killed and three injured in the tragedy.

In addition, it was reported earlier that two representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry were also killed. As reported, three more servicemen were injured.

The people injured in the explosion at the range in the Arkhangelsk region were transported to Moscow, the press service for the regional government said on Friday.

The Dvinsky Bay of the White Sea, where the explosion happened on Thursday, will be closed for navigation for a month, Arkhangelsk Seaport Deputy Captain Sergei Kozub told Interfax on August 8.

The Severodvinsk administration press service said on Thursday that "radiation levels grew to two 2 micro-sieverts per hour in the city" between 11:50 a.m. and 12:20 p.m on August 8. Levels higher than 0.6 micro-sieverts are the emergency response norm.

Arkhangelsk Region Governor Igor Orlov told Interfax on Thursday evening that radiation levels did not grow in the region after the explosion at the military testing range. "Environmental measurements confirm natural levels. There are no deviations. This is proven by all services, and all controlling systems," he said.

The authorities said on Friday that background radiation in the Arkhangelsk region was within the normal range.

Radioisotopic batteries are devices which use energy from the decay of a radioactive isotope to generate electricity. They are used in spacecraft, pacemakers, underwater systems and automated scientific stations in remote parts of the world, among other things.