Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast via The New York Times

By Andrew E. Kramer

MOSCOW — A mystery explosion at a Russian weapons testing range involved radioactive materials, the authorities admitted on Saturday, as the blast’s admitted death toll rose and signs of a creeping radiation emergency, or at the least fear of one, grew harder to mask.

In a statement released at 1 a.m. Saturday, Russia’s nuclear energy company, Rosatom, said five employees had died, in addition to the two military personnel previously confirmed dead, as a result of a test on Thursday morning involving “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.”


At the least, the statement came as the first formal acknowledgment from a central government source that radioactive materials had been involved in the accident. It offered no details on the materials used and potentially released into the environment. It said the deaths were “a result of an incident at a testing range in Arkhangelsk region.”

Tass, a state news agency, cited an unnamed official at Rosatom offering additional details and explaining the delay in announcing the additional deaths.


With information scarce, residents in cities near the accident site in Russia’s far north were taking no chances. On Friday, there was a run on pharmacies for medicines containing iodine, believed to be of some help against radiation poisoning, the Russian news media reported. Pharmacies in Arkhangelsk reportedly ran out.

A news site, Baza, released a video it said showed ambulances delivering injured people to a Moscow hospital. The vehicle doors were sealed with plastic sheeting, apparently to prevent the release of contamination from the patient’s bodies, and the drivers wore white protective suits.


The city government had posted a statement online saying two meters had registered “a short-term elevation in radiation” without identifying the cause. The statement was subsequently taken offline.

Tass had earlier cited the Defense Ministry as offering a different assessment, saying that “there was no release of toxic materials into the atmosphere, and the radiation level is normal.”

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