September 03, 2019

Radioactive pontoons involved in military test explosion wash ashore near Russian village
Two pontoons involved in a mysterious military test explosion in northern Russia last month have been left unguarded on the shore near a village despite high radiation readings, according to a video. Radiation levels spiked in the Arkhangelsk region and at least five employees of state nuclear concern Rosatom were killed when a “liquid-fuel reactive propulsion system” exploded during testing near the village of Nyonoksa on August 8.  Rosatom said the blast occurred during work on “isotope power sources” for the engine, which commentators have speculated was for either the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile or a space rocket.  The authorities have claimed the accident posed no risk to residents' health, even though doctors at a regional hospital said they were unwittingly exposed to radiation when treating patients from the site. Caesium-137 was later found in the body of one of the doctors. Satellite imagery revealed that two floating platforms were swept to the shore of the Dvina Bay in the days after the accident. Locals posted a photograph of the platforms, one of which was severely damaged, on social media, warning others to stay away with the caption “this is what death looks like”.  On Monday, the Belomorkanal news site uploaded a YouTube video of men taking radiation readings near the platforms on a beach near the mouth of the Verkhovka river. Experts have said approaching the two pontoons located 2.5 miles from the Nyonoksa train station could be fatal Credit: YouTube Their dosemeter showed 154 microroentgens an hour on a red fishing line about 500 feet from the platforms and 186 microroentgens an hour on a hauling cable. Both readings are well above the normal levels of 20 to 40 microroentgens an hour.  “No idiots have been found to take the radiation levels on the pontoons themselves without proper protection,” the video said.  According to locals, radiation levels in Nyonoksa itself are normal, and a dosemeter in an earlier video showed only five to six microroentgens per hour, albeit at a further distance from the pontoons. A dosemeter shows 154 microroentgens an hour near a red fishing line Credit: YouTube But the platforms are located only two-and-a-half miles from the Nyonoksa railway station and are being lapped by the waves of the Dvina Bay, which has been closed to all vessels for a month. No guards, fencing or warning signs are visible in the Belomorkanal video besides a red t-shirt stretched across two sticks. Experts have said while the radiation levels may be safe in the village of 500, approaching the pontoons could be very harmful or even deadly. While radiation tends to disperse quickly in the air, it is often absorbed in plants or other objects, and flotsam on the beach could contain significantly elevated levels. In another video uploaded to social media, a captain who heads the missile testing base outside of Nyonoksa said told residents earlier this month there had been an explosion “underneath a pontoon” and warned them to “not go near objects washed up onshore in the past few days”.  Residents of Nyonoksa take part in a folk festival last year Credit: Sergei Yakovlev/AP At the same time, he ate berries locals brought him to prove that they were in no danger, one resident told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The news site published an investigation last week arguing that specialists may have been trying to lift from the bottom a cruise missile that crashed in the bay last year.
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