Fears of Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster after radiation monitors ‘go offline’

Fears of Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster after radiation monitors ‘go offline’

Fears have been raised about a Chernobyl-style cover-up after two radioactive-particle monitoring sites went down following a suspected nuclear blast in Russia.

Russia's state nuclear agency, Rosatom, acknowledged that nuclear workers were killed in the explosion on August 8, which occurred during a rocket engine test near the White Sea in far northern Russia.

The blast is said to have happened at a military base near Nenoksa, causing a spike in radiation in the area and prompting a local run on iodine, which is used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure.

The two monitoring stations nearest the explosion, Dubna and Kirov, stopped transmitting on August 10.

Russian officials told the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) they were having "communication and network issues".

The authorities have given no official explanation for why the blast triggered the rise in radiation – and the defence ministry, which operates the two stations, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

US-based nuclear experts have said they suspect Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin last year.

"We're … addressing w/ station operators technical problems experienced at two neighbouring stations," Lassina Zerbo, head of the CTBTO, said on Twitter .

A CTBTO spokesman said: "We're awaiting further reports on when the stations and/or the communication system will be restored to full functionality."

The CTBTO's International Monitoring System (IMS) includes atmospheric sensors that pick up so-called radionuclide particles wafting through the air.

Zerbo said data from stations on or near the path of a potential plume of gas from the explosion were still being analysed.

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