An explosion at a Russian military base killed three personnel and caused a brief spike in radioactivity in a nearby Russian city. The Russian Defense Ministry has said that no “dangerous substances” were released into the atmosphere during the incident, but other government agencies reported that radiation readings briefly spiked before receding to normal levels.
The incident reportedly took place today near the village of Nenoksa, where a Russian Navy missile test range is located. Although the Russian government hasn’t given time specifics, radiation levels in the area started to rise about 10 minutes before 12 p.m. local time. The location is also 29 miles west of Severodvinsk, a city of 185,000.
According to The Barents Observer, the explosion took place on a barge or ship. The Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by Russian state media, stated: "As a result of the accident, six representatives of the Ministry of Defense and a developer enterprise were injured of varying severity. Two specialists died from the wounds received. All the victims were promptly taken to a medical facility, where they received the necessary medical care."
Most news reports state two dead and eight wounded from the incident, but The Independent Barents Observer says that three were killed and 15 wounded—eight seriously.
The Ministry of Defense made clear that "there were no harmful emissions into the atmosphere, the radiation background is normal." Greenpeace, on the other hand, citing data from the government’s own Emergencies Ministry, revealed that radiation levels in Severodvinsk briefly reached 20 times normal levels. Greenpeace called on the Russian government to explain the release.
The BBC, in its reporting of the incident, wrote, “A woman in Severodvinsk named only Alina told Russian news site lenta.ru: 'I work in the hospital where they're bringing the injured. They advise everyone to close their windows and drink iodine, 44 drops per glass of water.'"
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says potassium iodide is used to prevent the buildup of the radioactive isotope Iodine-131 in the thyroid gland, which could lead to thyroid cancer. Iodine-131, the CDC explains, “is produced commercially for medical and industrial uses through nuclear fission. It also is a byproduct of nuclear fission processes in nuclear reactors and weapons testing.”