A nuclear official said in an email Sunday that two Russian nuclear monitoring stations—specifically designed to detect radiation— “went silent” in the days following an explosion by what many believe was a nuclear-powered missile earlier this month during tests at a remote base.
Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, told The Wall Street Journal in an email that two days after the explosion, the monitoring stations in Kirov and Dubna suffered “communication and network issues.”
There have been reports that Russia has not been fully transparent about what occurred at a military base in the far northern Arkhangelsk region. The initial report from the country’s nuclear agency said that five workers were killed in a rocket engine explosion. The Guardian reported that radiation levels in Severodvinsk, a nearby city, increased 20 times above normal for about a half hour after the explosion.
It has been reported that residents in the area have been stocking up on iodine, which helps reduce the effects of radiation exposure.
Two days later, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear agency Rosatom acknowledged that the explosion occurred on an offshore platform during tests of a “nuclear isotope power source,” and that it killed five nuclear engineers and injured three others. It’s still not clear whether those casualties were in addition to the earlier dead and injured.
H.I. Sutton, a contributor to Forbes, reported that there has been speculation about what exactly Russia was testing at the time of the explosion. One theory, according to his analysis, is that Moscow was testing a “mega-torpedo” nearby, which is reportedly 30 times larger than submarine torpedoes considered “heavyweight.”
The report said, “Launched from a large submarine, potentially from under the protection of the arctic ice cap, it would virtually have unlimited range and Russia claims that it will run so deep that it cannot realistically be countered with existing weapons.”
President Trump took to Twitter and said the U.S. is “learning” from the missile explosion and said the U.S. has more advanced technology but did not elaborate.