Russian "Nuclear Isotope Engine" (?) Explosion: More Details Emerging


Childhood idol: George Washington, Fighter Pilot
PREMO Member
I'm been following these stories because I used to work in the arms control field. But this story is quite the handful.

The opening:
Russia's state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom says that a team of its employees had been working on an experimental "isotope power source" when it exploded, killing five people and injuring three more in a still very mysterious accident yesterday. The company offered no specifics about the project, but this new information, coupled with other details, suggests that this power source may be associated with a nuclear-powered cruise missile called Burevestnik that the Kremlin first announced publicly last year.
A big upside if it works; a huge downside if something goes wrong:
Unlike a missile using a conventional jet engine or rocket motor, the nuclear power plant [of the Burevestnik] could potentially keep the missile flying for weeks on end and give it virtually unlimited range, making it a nightmare for anyone trying to defend against it. Unfortunately, this also means that any test of the weapon, even one without a live warhead, still involves launching a radioactive payload. Whether or not the test fails – and crashes or explodes – or the missile succeeds in reaching its destination, it will always involve crashing a nuclear reactor into the ground or the ocean.
And apparently something's gone wrong:
Pictures and video of Russian personnel in protective gear screening helicopters bringing in the wounded and ambulance drivers taking similar precautions as they took the individuals to a local hospital would certainly seem to imply that they had sustained significant radiation exposure. This could also have been standard precautions given the radiological nature of the incident.
Here's the paragraph that caught my interest (from an arms control perspective). The Burevestnik program may never be viable tech, but development is going forward so as to be used as a bargaining chip:
How serious Russia is or isn't about the missile, and how viable a weapon it could ever be at all, remains up for debate. The Kremlin has stressed in the past that Burevestnik does not fall under the terms of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, with the United States, but it has also indicated that it might be willing to include it in a revised or all-new agreement. This raises the possibility that Russia may have begun development of this high-risk system, along with a similarly controversial nuclear-powered torpedo called Poseidon, at least in part, simply so it could offer to end the program in return for concessions from the U.S. government in future arms control negotiations.
Worth the clickover for the complete story. Approx. reading time is <10 minutes (unless you head down the various rabbit trails of the embedded links).

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