Five killed in accident at Russian military test site

In a statement Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom said the accident Thursday at a secret military facility also left three staff with burns and other injuries

The Ministry said the blast at a military testing site on the shore of the White Sea killed two and injured six more, but the word "nuclear" never made an appearance.

Officials have been slow to release information about Thursday's blast, which led to a radiation spike in a nearby city and sparked heightened demand for iodine.

USA -based nuclear experts have said they suspect the blast and radiation release could have occurred during the testing of a cruise missile that used nuclear propulsion.

In a video statement released on Sunday evening, an official from the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre, where five employees were killed in the explosion, said the agency was working on a number of experimental technologies, including "miniaturised sources of energy using [fissile] materials". The Defense Ministry initially reported two were killed in the accident, which it said involved testing of a liquid-fueled missile engine.

"The best (thing) for their memory will be our further work on the new weapons", he said. "Its security will be reliably ensured".

Authorities have been drip-feeding information about a blast during a rocket test on a platform in the White Sea off northern Russian Federation that Greenpeace has said caused a 20-fold increase in radiation in a nearby city. Several staff were blown into the sea by the blast.

On August 10, it was reported that five people died in the explosion on a military testing ground in Arkhangelsk. The Burevestnik's propulsion is, according to Novaya Gazeta and other sources, a nuclear scramjet much like that originally envisioned for the U.S. military's SLAM program of the early 1960s.

Greenpeace cited data from the Emergencies Ministry that it said showed radiation levels had risen 20 times above the normal level in Severodvinsk, around 30 km from Nyonoksa.

News of the accident prompted residents of Severodvinsk to rush to pharmacies to stock up on iodine, which can be taken to prevent the thyroid gland absorbing radiation.

In an address to the nation earlier this year, Putin announced the development of what he called "invincible" missiles, threatening to deploy them against "decision-making centers" in the West if there were serious threats against Russian Federation.

Experts believe Russian scientists were testing the 9M730 Burevestnik, dubbed SSC-X-9 Skyfall by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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In planning for the risks associated with the missile tests, he said, "I must say, what happened was not foreseen".

The accident took place at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles deployed in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

Russian Federation held a memorial service for the scientists in the closed city of Sarov in the Nizhny Novgorod region, 500 kilometres east of Moscow.

Sergei Kirienko, Russian President Vladimir Putin's deputy chief of staff, said the five would be posthumously awarded with top medals.

He said that while conducting the tests the scientists took on physical risks, "which, unfortunately, however much you prepare, can not be completely avoided".

Last July the Russian Defense Ministry released video of what it said was a successful missile launch as well as images of the missile under development.

During the Cold War, Sarov was a top-secret city known as Arzamas-16.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union pondered nuclear-powered missiles in the 1960s, but they abandoned those projects as too unstable and unsafe.

- Vyacheslav Solovyev, one of the officials at the institute in the closed city of Sarov, said: "These developments are also actually happening in many countries".

Pictures of hazmat teams taking measurements and specially-prepared ambulances transporting the injured were used to support some panic-inducing media headlines, while tabloids speculated over the type of weapon involved in the test.

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