Nyonoksa radiation accident

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Nyonoksa radiation accident
Date8 August 2019; 46 days ago (2019-08-08)
LocationState Central Navy Testing Range near Nyonoksa, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russian Federation
TypeNuclear and radiation accident
CauseExplosive destruction of an "isotope power source" (officially). Allegedly a failed 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile test.

The Nyonoksa radiation accident, Arkhangelsk explosion or Nyonoksa explosion occurred on 8 August 2019 near Nyonoksa, a village under the administrative jurisdiction of Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russian Federation. Five military and civilian specialists were killed and three (or six, depending on the source) were injured.[1][2][3]


The accident occurred at the “State Central Navy Testing Range” (Russian: «Государственный центральный морской полигон») which is the main rocket launching site of the Russian Navy and is also called Nyonoksa.[4] According to the version presented by Russian officials, it was a result of a failed test of an "isotope power source for a liquid-fuelled rocket engine".[5][6][7] Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis and Federation of American Scientists fellow Ankit Panda suspect the incident resulted from a test of the Burevestnik cruise missile.[8] However, the researcher Michael Kofman, Fellow at the Wilson Center disputed the assertions, and believes the explosion was probably not related to Burevestnik.[9] Event of explosive nature was registered on the 8th of August at 06:00 UTC (local time 09:00) at the infrasound station in Bardufoss (Troms, Norway). The event was also registered on seismic data, which means it must have been coupled to the ground. The practical meaning of an explosion coupling to the ground is that it took place either at the ground or in contact with it; for example on water. The timing and location of the event coincides with the reported accident in Archangelsk.[10]


In the aftermath of the explosion, three of the victims were treated at the Semashko Medical Center in Arkhangelsk, which had radiation treatment expertise and employed the use of hazmat suits, while three others were taken to the Arkhangelsk Regional Clinical Hospital, arriving at 4:35 p.m. on August 8th, where the hospital staff were not warned of the radiation exposure.[11] Several Arkhangelsk Regional Hospital staff were later flown to Moscow for radiation testing. One doctor was found to test positive for Cesium-137, though the levels remain unknown, as the medical staff involved were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements.[12][13][14]

According to an unnamed medical worker, two of the injured by the explosion died of radiation sickness en route from Arkhangelsk Regional Hospital to treatment in Moscow.[14][15]

Five immediate deaths[edit]

On Monday August 12, 2019, flags in Sarov were lowered to half-staff during the viewing of five coffins in Sarov's main square.[16] These were the bodies of five Rosatom workers who were killed during and immediately following the August 8, 2019 explosion.[3][4] Later, on August 12, 2019, the bodies of the Rosatom workers were buried in Sarov's main cemetery.[16]

Radiation levels[edit]

Background radiation levels reportedly peaked at 4-16 times normal levels in Severodvinsk, 47 kilometres (29 mi) to the east, reaching 1.78 microsieverts per hour shortly after the explosion.[17] The administration in Severodvinsk reported elevated radiation levels for 40 minutes leading to a rush on medical iodine.[18][19] [20] In the days following the event several monitoring stations in Russia stopped sending data to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), a data network for radiation monitoring made of 80 stations around the world.[21][22]

According to the information posted by Roshydromet on radiation situation in Severodvinsk in the hours following the accident, a number of short-lived isotopes were discovered: Strontium-91, Barium-139, Barium-140 and Lanthanum-140.[23][24] Norwegian nuclear safety expert Nils Bøhmer stated that such isotope composition proves a nuclear reactor was involved in the accident.[23]

On 2 September, Belomorkanal news agency published a video material showcasing two abandoned pontoons, with one of them carrying an array of heavily damaged testing equipment. The video demonstrates measurements of gamma radiation at 150 m distance from the abandoned vessels on the White Sea shore close to Nyonoksa with the reading reaching 186 μR/h - 15 times higher than natural. Alpha and beta radiation levels have not been measured. The site has been neither enclosed nor guarded and no radiation warning signs have been observed.[25][26][27]

Evacuation of population[edit]

According to the local press, it was announced that about 450 inhabitants of the Nyonoksa village had to be evacuated by train for two hours on 14 August then this evacuation would have been canceled. According to the The Moscow Times quoting RIA Novosti, residents of Nyonoksa will be evacuated each month by special train for two hours (early Wednesday morning) for planned military activities in the city; evacuation that according to a villager already exists: it is expected, everyone is taken from the village about once a month, even if some remained behind. But now, after the last events, I think everyone will leave. The governor of the Arkhangelsk region (Igor Orlov) denied that the evacuation was an emergency, saying it was a routine measure, already "planned". [28][29]


  •  Russia: Although initially denied, involvement of radioactive materials in the accident was later confirmed by Russian officials.[30] On 13 August, the authorities initiated evacuation of the village of Nyonoksa.[31] On 14 August the evacuation was cancelled.[32] On 26 August, Aleksei Karpov, Russia’s envoy to international organizations in Vienna, stated that the accident was linked to the development of weapons which Russia had to begin creating as "one of the tit-for-tat measures in the wake of the United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty".[33]
  •  Norway: Norway's nuclear safety authority detected tiny amounts of radioactive iodine near its eastern Russian border days after the accident. They could not determine if the detection is linked to the accident. Monitoring stations in Norway detect iodine about six to eight times a year, and the source is usually unknown.[34]
  •  USA: On 12 August a tweet from US president Donald Trump suggested that the accident was a failed Burevestnik test. In the tweet Burevestnik was referred to by its NATO reporting name "Skyfall".[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew E. Kramer (10 August 2019). "Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  2. ^ Mike Eckel (10 August 2019). "What Exactly Happened at Russian Missile Test Site?". VOA. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Russia explosion: Five confirmed dead in rocket blast". BBC News. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b Isachenkov, Vladimir (14 August 2019). "Mysterious missile explosion, radiation spike in Russia raises questions". Star-Advertiser. Honolulu. Associated Press. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  5. ^ Roth, Andrew (10 August 2019). "Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  6. ^ Johnson, Reuben (15 August 2019). "How Russia Is Tempting Fate—And the Next Chernobyl". The Bulwark. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  7. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (10 August 2019). "Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  8. ^ Landay, Jonathan (10 August 2019). "U.S.-based experts suspect Russia blast involved nuclear-powered missile". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2019-08-11. Retrieved 2019-08-12. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ Michael Kofman (15 August 2019). "Mystery explosion at Nenoksa test site: it's probably not Burevestnik".
  10. ^ NORSAR (23 August 2019). "New data sheds further light on description of incidents reported in North-Russia".
  11. ^ Ackeret, Markus. "Was inzwischen zum Nuklearunfall am Weissen Meer bekannt ist – und warum es ein schlechtes Licht auf die Behörden wirft". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  12. ^ Gershkovich, Evan. "Russian Doctors Say They Weren't Warned Patients Were Nuclear Accident Victims". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  13. ^ ""I ate Fukushima crabs": they explained to the doctor who treated the injured at Nenoxa the infection with a radioactive isotope". Novaya Gazeta. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  14. ^ a b Englund, Will. "Two victims of mysterious Russian missile blast died of radiation sickness, report says". Washington Post. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  15. ^ https://www.foxnews.com/world/russia-nuclear-missile-explosion-radiation-sickness
  16. ^ a b "Russian nuclear engineers buried after 'Skyfall nuclear' blast: Experts link the explosion to the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile touted by President Putin in March 2018". Al Jazeera. 13 August 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  17. ^ Henry Foy (16 August 2019). "Mystery surrounds explosion at Russia military site". Financial Times. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Russians buy up iodine in Arctic rocket radiation scare". BBC News. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  19. ^ Henry Foy (16 August 2019). "Mystery surrounds explosion at Russia military site". Financial Times. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  20. ^ "The excess was: Roshydromet published data on radiation in Severodvinsk on the day of the explosion in Nenoksa". 29.ru. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  21. ^ Kuznets, Dmitry. "Russian officials have openly acknowledged the country's August 8 nuclear blast. Why did they turn off four nuclear monitoring stations anyway?". Meduza. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  22. ^ Zerbo, Lassina. "Lassina Zerbo". Twitter. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  23. ^ a b Nilsen, Thomas (26 August 2019). "Isotopes composition proves a reactor was involved in Nenoksa accident, expert says". The Barents Observer. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  24. ^ Ю.В. Пешков, Об аварийном, экстремально высоком и высоком загрязнении окружающей среды и выявленных случаях изменения радиационной обстановки на территории Российской Федерации в период с 10 по 23 августа 2019 года, retrieved 26 August 2019
  25. ^ "Эхо взрыва 8 августа. В Нёноксе до сих пор неспокойно" (in Russian). 2 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  26. ^ "СМИ: у Неноксы после взрыва брошены радиоактивные понтоны, излучение в 10 раз выше нормы" (in Russian). Новая газета. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  27. ^ "Radiation levels still surging at pontoons damaged in Russia's mysterious missile-test explosion". Meduza. 3 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  28. ^ "What We Know About Russia's Mysterious Rocket Explosion So Far". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  29. ^ "I think everyone will leave" on August 14, local residents will be taken out of the Nenoksa village -- this is due to scheduled site work". 29.ru. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  30. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (10 August 2019). "Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  31. ^ Thomas Grove (13 August 2019). "Russia Urges Villagers to Leave Radioactive Blast Site". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  32. ^ Nathan Hodge, Olga Pavlova (14 August 2019). "Russian officials cancel evacuation of village near suspected missile accident". CNN.
  33. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (26 August 2019). "Russia Identifies 4 Radioactive Isotopes From Nuclear Accident". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  34. ^ "Norway detects radioactive iodine by Russian border days after blast". Reuters. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  35. ^ Patrick Goodenough (15 August 2019). "Trump Links Explosion in Russian Arctic to Putin's New, Hyped Nuclear Cruise Missile". CNS News. Retrieved 13 August 2019.

External links[edit]

External media
Two radioactive pontoons
Radiation measurements in Nyonoksa on YouTube