Authorities have been drip-feeding information about a blast during a rocket test on a platform in the White Sea off northern Russian Federation that Greenpeace has said caused a 20-fold increase in radiation in a nearby city.
Rosatom said this weekend that its staff was providing engineering and technical support for the "isotope power source" of a missile. It's not clear what the final toll is.
- Russian media have said the rocket engine explosion may have occurred at a weapons testing area near the village of Nyonoksa.
At memorial events in Sarov that included a gun salute, Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev praised the deceased nuclear experts as the "pride of the country" and the "pride of the atomic sector".
"The best (thing) for their memory will be our further work on the new weapons", he said.
"We are fulfilling the task of the motherland".
The city of Severodvinsk, located some 30km east of the test range and hosting a key shipyard of Russia's Northern Fleet, added fuel to rumors after authorities posted -and then deleted- news of a brief radiation spike to 0.11 microsieverts per hour, with the norm standing at 0.6.
A spokesperson for the Severodvinsk administration told RBC, a Russian daily business newspaper, that the statement had been removed from the website "as the situation is being handled by the Ministry of Defense".
Authorities said that after the incident, they had shut down part of a bay in the White Sea, although public shipping information from the port of Arkhangelsk showed the area had been closed for the preceding month.
Emergency officials issued a warning to all workers to stay indoors but authorities insisted that the city's residents never were in any danger.
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The ministry claimed "there were no harmful emissions into the atmosphere, the radiation background is normal". It's lower than the cosmic radiation that plane passengers are exposed to on longer haul flights.
Three more workers have been hospitalized with various traumas and burns.
Russian environmental groups have urged the government to release details of the radioactive leak, but officials offered no further details.
The New York Times reports the blast occurred during the test of a new type of nuclear-propelled cruise missile.
"The scientists died in the explosion of a portable nuclear reactor which is a part of the engine of the object for military objective", the experts on nuclear weapon said.
The Burevestnik was one of an array of new strategic weapons touted by Putin past year.
Some reports suggested that previous tests of the Burevestnik missile had been conducted on the barren Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya and the Kapustin Yar testing range in southern Russian Federation before they were moved to Nyonoksa.
Sarov is still a closed city only accessible to those with special passes.
In a video statement released on Sunday evening, an official from the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre, where five employees were killed in the explosion, said the agency was working on a number of experimental technologies, including "miniaturised sources of energy using [fissile] materials".
The US government has said nothing publicly about the detonation on August 8, which could be one of the worst nuclear accidents since Chernobyl.