There is an untold number of nuclear missiles and devices stored all over the planet, the vast majority of them being held in Russia and the United States.
These weapons are typically rather safe when they are dormant, in the sense that accidents don’t happen very often. When there are problems though, it can get incredibly frightening.
That was the situation faced by residents of a remote village in Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region in mid-august, when a prototype missile that runs on nuclear fuel accidentally exploded.
The entire region was evacuated after the blast, and the government sent a special rescue train to the town of Nyonoska to help transport residents to safety. 5 military scientists at the research facility lost their lives in the initial blast, but it is believed that around 450 people were evacuated.
Although the blast is over, the threat that remains is the radiation left over. It has been reported that gamma radiation in the area has jumped to six to 16 times what is considered safe.
Increased levels of radiation were detected as far as the city of Severodinsk.
Multiple witnesses have reported confusion after the explosion and have suggested that they were lied to by the government about the radiation dangers at first.
The Washington Post quoted a local media interview with one villager, who said that military officials initially told them that there was “nothing to worry about,” and that it would be safe for them to stay in their homes.
Since the situation has been shrouded in so much secrecy, many details about the site and the missile are still unclear. However, experts in the field have suggested that this was some type of experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile, which is often referred to as the “Burevestnik” or “Storm Petrol”.
United States President Donald Trump tweeted in response to the explosion, stating that he was concerned about the air and environment around the blast site and beyond. He also could not pass up an opportunity to point out that the United States has “more advanced, technology.”
Russian officials have done their best to downplay the explosion and have been dismissive towards any questions about the blast.
According to the Washington Post, regional governor Igor Orlov refused to admit that there was a full-scale evacuation in the region, insisting that this was merely a “routine measure” that is being taken as a precaution.
This blast comes just two weeks after the United States formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
The treaty was made in response to the extreme tensions of the cold war, in an effort to slow down the nuclear arms race that much of the world agreed was a threat to human civilization.
The treaty set a specified limit on nuclear weapons for each country to stay under, but the United States government voiced concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty, which reportedly sparked the recent dissolution of the treaty.
This morning, NBC News speculated that perhaps this most recent explosion has something to with the breakdown of the agreement.