Last week, reports surfaces of a mysterious explosion at a Russian military installation in the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia on August 8, 2019. As details have emerged, it has become clear that this was a test of some kind of secretive nuclear weapons technology, and analysts are unsure what level of environmental contamination has occurred. Didn’t those Russians learn anything from Chernobyl?
Residents of neighboring cities and villages have attempted to stock up on iodine due to the fact that ambient radiation levels spiked to over 20 times higher than baseline for half an hour. Russian media, however, has naturally been censoring reports of the incident, making verifiable information difficult to come by. After the accident, a nearby bay in the White Sea has been closed to civilians for an entire month, leading to suspicions that radioactive materials may have contaminated surrounding waters.
What is known for sure is that Russia’s nuclear agency has claimed the accident occurred during a test of an “isotope power source for a liquid-fueled rocket engine.” So far, Russian media has reported that at least seven people died in the accident.
The Moscow Times suggests the accident was likely related to the development and testing of the nuclear-powered cruise missiles that Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled at a state of the union address last year, known as the 9M730 Burevestnik in Russia and as the SSC-X-9 Skyfall in the West. That missile is claimed to have a virtually unlimited range, but some analysts dispute those claims.
Curiously, another Russian military accident occurred at an ammunition depot on August 5, 2019, creating a massive explosion which shattered windows for miles around. While both are likely unfortunate mishaps, the close timing of both incidents sure is odd. Could these have been caused by some type of sabotage?
While that remains unknown, these cases highlight the dangers of escalating tensions between major superpowers, tensions which will without a doubt lead to plenty of collateral damage for us plebs. Over the last decade, the United States and Russia have begun rattling the proverbial spears once again and walking away from treaties intended to reduce nuclear tensions. What could go wrong?