Outcomes of Russia’s Nuclear Explosion
On August 8, an eruption at a missile test site in Russia’s Arctic coast released radiation and killed at least seven people, including five workers. The Russian government is hiding all the details, is classifying all the information
To talk more about the accident, we welcome to our studio Yuriy Kyrylenko, he’s the expert at the State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation safety.
— So it’s how I’ve already mentioned, the explosion happened last Thursday and, as usual, the Russian government is hiding all the details, is classifying all the information. What caused the explosion?
— It’s such a difficult question because until today we’ve had no information about the chronology of the release, and about the protection actions that were applied in Severodvinsk and Arkhangelsk cities. And we have no information about the sources of the release, about the radionuclides that were involved in this release into the atmosphere.
— Well, we do know that the radiation level raised, so obviously, it was some radioactive thing, and there’s been information that Russia was trying out a new missile system. And that has been backed up by the United States of America because Donald Trump tweeted Monday night, and I quote here, “The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia.” Could you comment?
— I want to say first of all that Ukraine and the Russian Federation are members of the International Agency on Atomic Energy. So in this agency, we have a special system for information exchange. So, for now, we have no information in this system about this incident. So this…
— Is this an issue for being concerned? The fact that there is no information in the system about the explosion?
— I hope.
— Okay, should Ukraine and other European countries be afraid of the circumstances of the Chernobyl-like pattern?
— According to our results of modeling of the trajectory of the radioactive cloud, this even doesn’t pose a threat for Ukraine and the public. And we use the special decision support system RODAS and the American system HASPLIT to evaluate the potential impact on Ukraine. So for today, we have no information about Thursday. In the next few days of the first week, we are waiting for the first measurements from the Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant, Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, and South Ukrainian. Those might be the first measurements of air and soil. After that, we can say something.
— Well, the residents of the two little Russian towns that were close to the explosion site which are Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk went into the so-called pharmacy craze buying iodine.
— Yeah, it’s one way to protect the public, but it works of nuclear power plant accidents, so if we have no iodine in this release, this preemptive usage of iodine has a more negative influence or impact on the Russian people, so it’s not a positive activity from the side of these people.
— Okay, how high are the chances that this explosion is a result of a failed attempt of testing a new missile in Russia that was announced by Vladimir Putin in March 2018? He said that they were building a cruise missile that can travel any distance because it uses nuclear propulsion instead of conventional fuel and can evade any defenses since it flies low and changes the trajectory?
— Our center is waiting for more details about this story, but right now we have no answer to this question because we are not specialists in this area of rockets and army etcetera. I am a specialist on the spread of radionuclides in the atmosphere, so I can explain these local issues.
— Okay, when will be the nearest time that we get the evaluation of the atmosphere and the air pollution in Ukraine so we can figure out how dangerous the effect of this explosion can be for Ukraine?
— According to our modeling, the cloud is here right now. I mean the cloud has crossed the Ukrainian border today from the side of the Black Sea, Crimea. The first nuclear power plant that is able to detect radionuclides in the air might be the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. It is important to say that these measurements will be, I think, the next week. So after that, we can investigate and say what’s going on in Russia and what radionuclide mix was released into the atmosphere.
— Until then, what piece of advice could you give to ordinary Ukrainians on how to stay safe in this situation?
— Even in a pessimistic scenario, Ukrainian people don’t have to do anything with it because it’s very low concentration. But on the nuclear power plant, we have precise equipment, and the nuclear power plant is able to measure it. But this release has no real impact on Ukrainian people for now and in the future.