Evacuation of village near explosion of nuclear cruise-missile engine called off

In the wake of an apparent explosion of the nuclear-powered engine of an experimental cruise missile, the Russian government has reportedly evacuated residents of a nearby village. According to local media, residents of Nyonoska, the site of a Russian missile testing facility, were told to evacuate and that a “special” passenger train would move residents to a safe distance during some sort of military operation—possibly an effort to retrieve the nuclear reactor involved in the accident.

But just hours before that evacuation was to take place, the Russian government cancelled the operation.

On August 13, Russian news outlet TV 29 reported that residents of Nyonoska were saying that they had been told they would be evacuated from 5am to 7am local time today, in what TV 29 jokingly referred to as “a new stage in the development of Arctic tourism.” Authorities in Severodvinsk told Interfax that the movement of civilians was because of “planned activities” at the Nyonoska testing range. But that evening, acting head of Severodvinsk, Irina Sakharova, said that the activities were called off and that “everything is to be carried out in a regular, planned mode.”

After the accident on August 8, radiation levels in the village were reported to be three times the normal background levels (to borrow a phrase, this is not great but not terrible). A similar spike was seen in the nearby city of Severodvinsk.

Another local news outlet (News Nord) reported that some of the victims of the explosion had been brought to Arkhangelsk Regional Clinical Hospital and that “everything that was connected with their admission and assistance was sealed.” Doctors had to sign non-disclosure papers, according to the report, and were not warned that the patients may have had radioactive debris on them.

“After the operation, the surgeon’s apron squeaked when checking on the radiation diagnostic apparatus,” News Nord reported. “Now everyone who somehow contacted the victims was taken to Moscow for examination.”

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