Two Russian Radiation Detectors Went Silent After Mystery Nuclear-powered Missile Explosion: 'Very Odd Coincidence'

Monitoring stations near the site of a failed nuclear-powered missile test in northern Russia have reportedly stopped transmitting data, bolstering concerns that the Kremlin is trying to cover up evidence of the accident.

Russia's state nuclear company Rosatom said the explosion took place at the site in Nyonoksa on August 8 during tests on a liquid propellant rocket engine.

The head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CNBTO), Lassina Zerbo, has said that the two stations nearby went offline two days after the explosion.

Those monitoring stations, Dubna and Kirov, form part of a global network to ensure that countries are following the rules of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which Russia says it is adhering to, although it has not yet been formally internationally ratified.

russia nuclear cruise missile test burevestnik
Russia tests its 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile in this clip released July 19, 2018 by the Russian Defense Ministry. Trials of the unique, experimental weapon have reportedly had mixed results. Russian Ministry of Defense

Zerbo told the Wall Street Journal that his organization had contacted the stations about why they had stopped transmitting data and was given the explanation that it was down to "communication and network issues."

"We are pending further reports on when the stations or the communication system will be restored to full functionality," Zerbo said, without specifying what caused the outage.

This adds to the secrecy shrouding the failed missile test on a platform in the White Sea in Dvinsk Bay in which five scientists were killed. Mixed messages abound, with residents in Nyonoksa first being told they were being temporarily evacuated, only for the order to be cancelled hours later.

The nearby city of Severodvinsk experienced a radiation increase four to 16 times above normal background levels, but local officials insisted that radiation levels normalized shortly after the blast.

Executive director of the Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball, told the Journal: "It is a very odd coincidence that these stations stopped sending data shortly after the August 8 incident.

"It is probably because they want to obscure the technical details of the missile-propulsion system they are trying and failing to develop but this is not a legitimate reason to cut off test-ban monitoring data transmissions," he added.

Residents living near the testing range have expressed concern that they are not being told the full story.

One, named Pavel, told Radio Free Europe: "What's offensive is that clearly there was some sort of explosion, there was radioactive fallout. Why didn't they raise the alarm, let people know what's happened?

"We remember Chernobyl. We know what happened," he added, referring to the catastrophic 1986 nuclear accident in then-Soviet Ukraine in which details were covered up.

The INS Vikramaditya, a modified former Kiev class aviation cruiser is seen at the Sevmash shipyard in the Northern Russian city of Severodvinsk, Russia. Elevated radiation levels were detected in the city after what is thought to be a nuclear-powered rocket explosion around 20 miles away. Getty Images/Sasha Mordovets

Doctors at the regional hospital where three people who were injured in the blast were taken for treatment, were reportedly not warned that the patients were potentially radioactive.

One unnamed surgeon at the Arkhangelsk Regional Clinical Hospital told The Moscow Times: "The hospital workers had their suspicions, but nobody told them to protect themselves."

Several doctors told the publication that staff who worked with the patients directly were asked by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Another doctor said: "They weren't forced to sign them, but when three FSB agents arrive with a list and ask for those on the list to sign, few will say no."

The failed test is thought to have involved the nuclear-powered cruise missile in Russian known as "Burevestnik" and in the U.S. as "Skyfall."