Russia's Defense Ministry said two people died and four others were wounded Thursday when a rocket engine exploded during a test. Both levels are too small to cause radiation poisoning. An increase in background radiation was registered on the test site, but the measurements are said to have soon returned to normal.
Dvina Bay, a shipping bay in the White Sea, has been consequently closed for a month, multiple social media sources, though unconfirmed, report people in the area seeking medical treatment for radiation exposure, and initial readings have shown levels of radiation in the areas adjoining the blast to now remain at a number 20 times higher than the average level for that region.
The accident occurred at a military testing range near Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk region on August 8.
Although it initially said no harmful chemicals were released into the atmosphere and radiation levels were unchanged, authorities in the city of Severodvinsk reported what they described as a brief spike in radiation.
Those reports say an area near Nyonoksa is used for tests on weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles that are used by the Russian navy.
US -based nuclear experts said on Friday they suspected the blast and radiation release occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
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Russia's Defence Ministry has given few details of the incident.
"Everyone has been calling asking about iodine all day", one pharmacy was quoted as saying by 29.ru, a media outlet that covers the Arkhangelsk region.
A senior USA official told Reuters that the details of the mishap are still unclear, but he expressed skepticism over the official explanation.
The Russian military has, meanwhile, refuted a report that a Rosatom vessel, capable of collecting radioactive waste, was dispatched to Severodvinsk, saying it had actually been undergoing scheduled trials.
Massive explosions at a Russian military ammunition depot in Siberia injured at least eight people and prompted the evacuation of thousands Monday. Later regional authorities said that six more people have been hospitalized after the accident. The agency lauded the work of the employees, who, it said, were well aware of the unsafe nature of experimental engine tests.