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Russian Village in ‘Danger Zone’ of Possible Nuclear Missile Test

Russian Village in ‘Danger Zone’ of Possible Nuclear Missile Test

A tiny village in northern Russia is back in the global spotlight again after its residents were warned they were in the “danger zone” for an upcoming military activity. The Russian government is offering to temporarily evacuate the 500 or so residents of the village of Nenoksa for the duration of the activity. The village became famous in 2019 after an incident involving a nuclear-powered cruise missile killed five and released radioactivity.

Nenoksa lies just south of the Arctic Circle, in Arkangelsk Oblast, Russia. According to the Barents Observer, the nearby city of Severodvinsk posted a warning on its website that Nenoksa is “inside the danger zone during work by the 1st scientific center of military unit 09703.” The advisory runs from 6 a.m. July 7 to 6 p.m. July 8th.

The Russian government is providing five buses for those that wish to evacuate, and evacuation is voluntary. Considering the village has a population of 500, it obviously expects not everyone to want to leave. The village has been evacuated several times in the last few years, each time due to military activity. In 2015, an errant cruise missile crashed into a building in Nenoksa housing a kindergarten. No casualties were reported.

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Four years later, an accident off the coast of Nenoksa killed five and resulted in a brief spike of radiation levels. Russian state energy company Rosatom said the accident took place during testing of a “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit,” while the research institute the five workers belonged to later said they had been working on “the creation of small-scale sources of energy using radioactive fissile materials.” Two of those killed reportedly died of radiation poisoning and Russia’s state nuclear agency said that the two explosions at the accident site released four different radioactive isotopes.

Western sources believe the accident involved the Burevestnik (“Storm Petrel”) nuclear-powered cruise missile. Known to NATO as the SSC-X-9 “Skyfall,” Burevestnik is a first-of- its-kind very long range cruise missile powered by a miniature nuclear reactor. The use of nuclear power instead of a turbine engine should give Burevestnik the ability to fly thousands of miles—and perhaps even for days—to skirt U.S. missile defense systems. Although nuclear-powered missiles were first proposed in the 1960s, work on them never advanced beyond the early stages due to the radioactive contamination such a missile would spew during testing.

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