Interest in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster has recently spiked thanks to HBO’s limited miniseries, Chernobyl. As a result of the series putting the incident under the spotlight, there has not only been a surge in interest but a rise in tourism for Pripyat, the city closest to the nuclear disaster. However, there are now concerns that Russia may not have learned much since the 1986 disaster as reports have recently alleged a potential new coverup regarding an incident involving radiation.
According to The Washington Post, on August 8, an explosion occurred “during a missile engine test on a platform in the White Sea at the Nyonoksa test facility in the Arkhangelsk region, in Russia’s far northwest.” After the initial explosion, a statement was released saying that two people had died as a result of the incident. While Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that no radiation had been detected as a result of the explosion, according to DW, authorities in the town of Severodvinsk, which is located approximately 19 miles away, did notice a spike in radiation. These levels have since “normalized.”
As a result of conflicting stories, there are concerns that Russia is covering up a much larger disaster, much in the same way that officials did with the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant more than 30 years ago.
— The Hill (@thehill) August 12, 2019
In addition, a report released regarding the spike in radioactivity in Severodvinsk has since been taken down, according to The Washington Post. It is believed that residents have also been asked to stockpile iodine as a precaution against radiation poisoning.
Potentially more disturbing, though, is the news that ambulances called to the emergency were seen leaving the explosion zone on the way to Moscow with plastic wrapping on the outside of the vehicles. Drivers were also seen in hazmat suits. Video footage of these vehicles was posted to Telegram.
The death toll has also risen since the original report that stated only two people had perished. On August 10, Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear agency, released a statement saying that five of their employees had died and three were injured as a result fo the explosion. As yet, no details have emerged regarding how these people died but this now brings the death toll to seven. Rosatom has also stated that the deaths occurred “during tests on a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes.”
Then, on August 13, an evacuation of Nyonoksa occurred. Residents of this small town were told that the evacuation would only be temporary. Currently, it is unclear if they have been allowed back into their homes.
Once again, this incident scarily echoes the events that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986. However, as The Washington Post pointed out, it appears that while there are similarities and that a close eye should be kept on the region involved for further updates, the scale of the disaster appears to be much smaller.