An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The failed missile test that ended in an explosion killing five atomic scientists last week on Russia’s White Sea involved a small nuclear power source, according to a top official at the institute where they worked. The men “tragically died while testing a new special device,” Alexei Likhachev, the chief executive officer of state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, said at their funeral Monday in Sarov, a high-security city devoted to atomic research less than 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Moscow where the institute is based. The part of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center that employed them is developing small-scale power sources that use “radioactive materials, including fissile and radioisotope materials” for the Defense Ministry and civilian uses, Vyacheslav Soloviev, scientific director of the institute, said in a video shown by local TV.
The blast occurred Aug. 8 during a test of a missile engine that used “isotope power sources” on an offshore platform in the Arkhangelsk region, close to the Arctic Circle, Rosatom said over the weekend. The Defense Ministry initially reported two were killed in the accident, which it said involved testing of a liquid-fueled missile engine. The ministry didn’t mention the nuclear element. It caused a brief spike in radiation in the nearby port city of Severodvinsk, according to a statement on the local administration’s website that was later removed. A Sarov institute official on the video posted Sunday said radiation levels jumped to double normal levels for less than an hour and no lasting contamination was detected. The Russian military said radiation levels were normal but disclosed few details about the incident. There’s speculation that the weapon being tested was the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, known in Russia as the Burevestnik, a nuclear-powered cruise missile that President Vladimir Putin introduced last year.
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