Norway is studying radioactivity in the air days after an explosion during the test of a rocket engine in Russia killed five people.
Norway’s radiation and nuclear safety office, known as the DSA, said it had detected small amounts of radioactive iodine at a research station in Svanhovd, near the country’s border with Russia. The radioactive substance was collected between August 9 and 12.
The accident took place August 8 in Arkhangelsk, an area in northwestern Russia.
The DSA said, “At this time, it is not possible to determine if the last iodine detection is linked to the accident in Arkhangelsk last week.”
Measurements that find radioactive iodine happen six to eight times a year at the Norwegian observing station. The cause is usually unknown.
A mysterious explosion
The deadly accident took place at a naval testing area near the White Sea. It caused what has been described as a short increase in radioactivity in the area.
At the time, officials ordered people in a nearby village to leave. But the officials canceled the order soon after.
Russian officials have provided limited information about the incident.
At first, Russian Defense Ministry officials said that liquid rocket fuel had exploded, killing two people and wounding six others. It said no radiation had been released.
Two days later, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear agency Rosatom said that five nuclear engineers had been killed and three others injured. It said the explosion took place on an offshore platform during testing of a “nuclear isotope power source.”
The TASS news agency said victims of the accident were taken to Moscow for treatment.
Russian officials then closed part of Dvina Bay to shipping.
On Monday, the five engineers were buried in the western city of Sarov, home to Russia’s main nuclear weapons research center.
The administration of the city of Severodvinsk said radioactivity jumped to 20 times normal levels for 30 minutes before returning to natural levels on the day of the accident. Later reports said it took longer, about two and a half hours, for radiation to return to normal.
Officials said the short increase in radiation did not present a danger to public health.
Neither Russia’s Defense Ministry nor the nuclear agency Rosatom have identified the weapon that exploded during the test. However, observers believe it was a nuclear-powered cruise missile that the NATO alliance calls “Skyfall.”
The missile was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 during his state-of-the-nation speech. Putin said the weapon will be able to travel an unlimited distance without being noticed by missile defense systems. He said the missile had successfully undergone its first tests.
Critics, however, say such a weapon is difficult to deal with and could present a threat to the environment.
On Monday, United States President Donald Trump tweeted about the explosion. He wrote that it “has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!”
Both the United States and the former Soviet Union worked on nuclear-powered missiles in the 1960s. However, they ended research because the designs were too dangerous to operate.
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this story for VOA Learning English from AP and Reuters reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
detection –n. to process of finding or noticing something
platform –n. a structure that holds something above the ground
isotope –n. a version of an atom that has an uncommon number of particles in its nucleus
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