«There is no reason for any state to have a nuclear-powered missile» via The Barents Observer

Russia’s missing reactor-powered cruise missile in the Barents Sea obviously causes concerns, says Norway’s Environment Minister, Ola Elvestuen.
Norway and Russia share the stocks of cod in the Barents Sea, a multi-billion business and important for tens of thousands of dinner-tables across Europe every day. A missing reactor-powered missile is no good news.
First made public by President Vladimir Putin in March this year, the existence of a nuclear-powered cruise-missile was shown in a defense ministry video of the test-launching. Putin told that during the flight, the missile reached its design capacity and provided necessary propulsion. That would mean a start of the reactor, although the reactor going critical is not confirmed. During initial launch, the missile lifts off with regular fuel as can be seen in the video.

Mysterious radiation

A source from within Russia’s military industrial complex interviewed by Vedomostiassures the radiation safety during the test was ensured. However, at the time, tiny little radioactivity was measured at Svanhovd on Norway’s border to Russia in the north as reported by the Barents Observer and speculations raised about possible links to testing of the reactor-powered missile. Also in January and February, small traces of radioactive iodine-131 were measured in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. 

In Tromsø, Head of the High North Section of the Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), Inger Margrethe Eikelmann, says no radioactivity has been measured in the Barents Sea that can be linked to a crashed nuclear-powered missile. 


Today, researcher Louise Kiel Jensen is testing mussels and different spices of fish for radioactivity in the laboratory. Levels of different radionuclides are very low for all seafood along the coast of Norway and in the Barents Sea.

For the radiation watchdog, cooperation- and information exchange with counterparts in northern Russia is essential. «Our last joint expedition to measure radioactivity was in 2014 to the sunken nuclear-powered submarine K-159,» Ekelmann tells. The wreak submarine, with two reactors onboard, sank just off the coast of the Kola Peninsula in August 15 years ago.


Attention to possible incidents or accidents involving nuclear reactors are raising in Norway, not least because of the increasing number of nuclear powered submarines sailing in Arctic waters. Both Northern Fleet submarines from  bases on the Kola Peninsula and U.S. or British submarines making port calls to Northern Norway.

For the nuclear experts at NRPA in Tromsø, though, the news about testing of reactor-powered missile testing and crashes are worrying. From Russia, little information about what’s going on is available. The missile program is surrounded by secrecy by the military.


Small Reactor, little radiation

In July, the Russian online Popular Mechanics published a longer article about the new missile powered by a small reactor. The article argues that the reactor could be a fast neutron reactor like the largest space reactors used by the Soviet Union. Also, the core may consist of Americium-242.

The reactor is very small in size, maybe less than half a meter.


He underlines that there are many unanswered questions and a lot of uncertainty  regarding such untested technology.

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