The corpses of two of the five nuclear researchers killed in last week’s Russian atomic explosion have allegedly vanished.
The two scientists, named Yanovsky and Lipshev, were “thrown into the sea” when a rocket engine test went wrong but could not be found, the Russian media claimed.
The state-run nuclear agency Rosatom said five of its staff were killed at a secret weapons testing lab in the sub-Arctic about 1,000km northeast of St Petersburg.
The five were killed “while testing a liquid jet propulsion system”, Rosatom said.
The BAZA portal claimed the five were from the nuclear research town of Sarov, which is closed to outsiders and foreigners, where they worked in “experimental physics”.
“After the explosion, some Rosatom employees were thrown into the sea,” said a statement.
“They were searched for while there was a hope to find them alive.”
The three other victims, Yevgeny Korotayev, Sergey Pichugin and Vladislav Yanovskiy, would reportedly be buried tomorrow (Monday).
Fifteen other staff were wounded after receiving “serious doses of radiation” in the accident with “isotope power sources”, the agency added.
The explosion will be a blow to Rosatom’s reputation as it tries to export its nuclear power technology around the world.
An anonymous naval officer reportedly told the Kommersant newspaper that the accident could have occurred at a testing site at sea and the explosion of a rocket might have caused a toxic fuel leak.
The authorities in the nearest city, Severodvink, recorded a radiation spike which later dissipated. The initial report of a spike was subsequently removed.
Pharmacies in the region said they had experienced shortages of iodine tablets – used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure – after the accident as residents bought up supplies.
“Rosatom will provide financial support to the families of the deceased employees, and this is not just about one-time assistance,” said the Rosatom statement.
The Russian authorities have given no official explanation about why the explosion of a rocket engine near the White Sea would cause a radiation spike.
Shipping around the port of Arkhangelsk, a naval base and shipyard, had been outlawed for the preceding month, without explanation.
A US-based nuclear source said the blast and radiation leak could have happened during the testing of a cruise missile that used nuclear propulsion.
Greenpeace said the Russian Emergencies Ministry was reporting radiation levels 20 times above the normal level.
Rosatom is promoted as a world leader in nuclear technology. Picture credit: YouTube