Russian rocket accident releases radiation

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  • #76
Astronuc
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There is some confusion over the light wind direction at the time. Was it blowing south, a south-wind or a southerly wind? From the delayed and then cancelled order to evacuate Nyonoksa I got the feeling that, at the time of the accident the wind at the test platform was blowing towards the NW, away from Nyonoksa and Severodvinsk. An expected wind change did not occur, or radiation products did not continue to be released, so the evacuation was cancelled.
The wind may have been blowing eastward, and possibly NE to SE. I went looking for some archive wind data, but it's not easy to find. I did find some data on the jet stream, but it only goes as far as Finland.

http://virga.sfsu.edu/archive/jetstream/jetstream_atl/big/1908/19080812_jetstream_atl_anal.gifhttp://virga.sfsu.edu/archive/jetstream/jetstream_atl/big/1908/
Apparently, satellites image the atmosphere, and there are archives of wind/cloud motion over much of the earth. Ostensibly, there is satellite imagery from UK, Norway, Sweden, and/or Finland, and perhaps Germany. I have seen satellite imagery from NOAA, but I can't find the specific satellite at present.

On August 8/9, there was a low pressure system over Sweden and Finland, so if the pressure was greater over White Sea, then the winds would probably blow westward or to SW.
 
  • #77
gleem
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Just a reminder the specification for wind direction is the direction of origin. So a north wind is blowing south, and east wind is blowing to the west.
 
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  • #78
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Western media report that a Russian agency, Rosgidromet, has reported finding several radioactive isotopes in samples it took following a recent accident at a northern military base during a weapons test.
Rosgidromet said a cloud of inert radioactive gases formed as a result of a decay of the isotopes and was the cause of the brief spike in radiation in Severodvinsk.

The isotopes were Strontium-91, Barium-139, Barium-140, and Lanthanum-140, which have half-lives of 9.3 hours, 83 minutes, 12.8 days, and 40 hours respectively, it said.
From https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-wea...e-isotopes-found-after-accident/30129439.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia...isotopes-government-reveals-today-2019-08-26/
https://www.foxnews.com/world/russia-nuclear-missile-explosion-radioactive-isotopes-test-samples.amp
 
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  • #79
Baluncore
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Rosgidromet is the Russian meteorological bureau.

Put yourself in the position of having to test a nuclear powered jet cruise missile and a nuclear powered torpedo. The submarine needed to launch the torpedo is not available yet so you need test facilities. I expect a nuclear powered missile would initially be tested on a static stand with a modified turbojet engine to provide the ram airflow. The combined thrust would require the test rig be fixed.

We can see with Google Earth (6/23/2010 attached), increased activity in the Severodvinsk shipyards during 2010 and 2011. A jack up platform is being modified. Wind the clock back to see (in front of the unrelated refit of the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov), a wide floating platform being progressively assembled from modular units. The floating platform outer edge has a white glacis plate, with cut corners. Judging by the length of the shadows you can see the superstructure on the floating platform is higher than the deck of the aircraft carrier. The middle section was assembled first, covered with a central structure.

I think the jack up platform was being modified for testing the 9M730 Burevestnik cruise missile, and became the site of the recent explosion. I think the floating platform is the accommodation and facilities for testing the sister project, the Poseidon nuclear powered torpedo and the launch system.

Where are those platforms now? My best guess is based on marine navigation charts that show three special purpose buoys located at 65.225135°, 38.814129°. That is out in the middle of the Dvinskiy Gulf, White Sea, an area not imaged by Google Earth. That area is ideal for testing both of those weapons systems.
 

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  • #81
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Well this (if true) would confirm my previous speculation that Russians already have a flying 9M730 cruise missile and have flown this missile multiple times before only in different locations (Novaya zemlya) , so this time they launched the missile as usual and something (unknown reason at this point) caused it to explode in mid air or as it was being dumped int he ocean/sea. After all test missiles just like other ones need to land somewhere eventually.
So they probably then went on to the recovery of the missile which is the reason why the special radiological ship Serebryanka was there.
Again what happened exactly after they tried to recover it is again an unknown at this point.
 
  • #82
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Ship tracking shows SEREBRYANKA in Murmansk, not in the White Sea.
Last movement reported was cryptic and short;
MMK ATD : 2019-08-30 08:57 LT (UTC+3)
KYT ETA : 2019-08-30 11:00 LT (UTC)
 
  • #83
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Well I know we are in the age of information but I don't think that you can track the movement of Russian military hardware from a typical end user accessible internet site that easily. The information could be wrong.
By this I am not saying that it was definitely Serebryanka , maybe it was some other specialized ship they have , but one is clear they had to have some marine equipment there because they intentionally dumped the rocket after flight into water.

I would think spy agencies like CIA and Mossad etc know more about what happened but it seems this is none of our business so far given how little has been made public about the incident.
 
  • #84
BillTre
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Here is a more detailed report, similar to what @mfb posted.
They mention that:
  • there were two explosions: one on board the ship that was retrieving the missile from the bottom and one after that involving the item being retrieved
  • a cause and effect relationship is implied between the two explosions: the ship board explosion disrupted the retrieval, which in turn is hypothesized to have caused a control rod to fall out of the reactor core, leading to a fissile "event".
  • a column of water raising from the ocean was seen by some fisherman near the presumed retrieval craft.
  • locals told to stay away from flotsam that might wash ashore.
 
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  • #85
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Ok, let's assume the missile flies, they test it several times this time in this region, but according to the article it happened some time earlier not this august, ok fine. So they dump the missile in the sea at the end and then go after it. Even though why can't they use a parachute or something like that? Maybe they dump it into sea because dumping it on land would pose the risk of destruction and contamination.


Maybe someone more informed about nuclear maths here could elaborate, if the explosion was indeed caused by the missile reactor (seems most likely) then could it have been as strong as the few assumed eyewitnesses say?
They probably use highly enriched U for the reactor much like in the small research reactors (90 something %)
So if the reactor design is such that it can keep itself together under high pressures for long enough in the event of criticality it could blast off much like a small A bomb right?


PS. the article also says that it could be a warhead but I highly doubt that as why would they needed to dump a warhead in the sea in the first place as I assume in testing ranges for missiles they don't equip them with actual bombs, the bombs are tested elsewhere on their own.

Another interesting moment is if the missile exploded due to a nearby explosion disrupting the reactor in the missile then what could have been there on a recovery platform that can explode with such force.
 
  • #86
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A nuclear reactor won't become prompt critical for any relevant amount of time. It might be able to explode, but only with energies of the order of a chemical explosion at most.
So they dump the missile in the sea at the end and then go after it. Even though why can't they use a parachute or something like that?
Maybe they did?
 
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  • #87
Baluncore
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The picture at the head of the link in post #84, shows a damaged container on a platform. One end of the container has been destroyed by a relatively small explosion, less than 100 kg TNT equivalent. The pictures in that article appears to come from the shore just north of the Nyonoksa test site. I see no evidence that they have been faked.
Lat: 64.654958° Long: 39.155973°

The closest Nyonoksa launch pad near there had a large tower removed and has a new shed with what appears to be a sliding cover. Again there are also a couple of blue shipping containers. Maybe that is now the launch site for the cruise missile. It seems to be aimed to the west, over land.
Lat: 64.651221° Long: 39.173062°
It is only 2.5 km from Nyonoksa village.
 
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  • #88
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Well given the platform haven't sunk and seem only partly damaged I would also agree that indeed maybe the reactor went prompt and caused a small scale explosion. The height of the water column reported by the fisherman are probably exaggerated if not entirely false and there is no realistic way of confirming most of the information presented in the link anyway so I'll assume that the platforms are real and some explosion happened near them.
I wonder apart from a reactor going critical what else could explode on a recovery platform like that, I doubt they bring extra explosive/flammable substances with them just for fun.

such a nuclear missile would need probably a chemical startup fuel, I wonder what kind of fuel they use for that because in the past Soviets used hypergolic rocket fuels in alot of their missiles.
 
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  • #89
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Ok, let's assume the missile flies, they test it several times this time in this region,
My assumption would be that such a cruise missile is not reusable. So tested several missiles, but not several tests with the same missile.

such a nuclear missile would need probably a chemical startup fuel, I wonder what kind of fuel they use for that because in the past Soviets used hypergolic rocket fuels in alot of their missiles.
In today's world, wouldn't it make more sense to use solid boosters analogous to NATO's JATO? It would also make sense to jettison the startup stage as soon as it was spent.

1567433882024.png
 
  • #90
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My assumption would be that such a cruise missile is not reusable. So tested several missiles, but not several tests with the same missile.
That appears to be the case as there seems to be no direct or simple way of returning missiles from the recovery platform to the launch site.

Recovery of test units for material diagnosis, reactor material salvage and cleanup is necessary. The planned landing zone must be in the water close to the launch site and control centre, or the recovery platforms would not have been beached nearby.

I expect recovery and salvage is managed through Severodvinsk.
 
  • #91
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My assumption would be that such a cruise missile is not reusable. So tested several missiles, but not several tests with the same missile.
In this particular case I think it is possible to design the test device to be reusable (with limits, of course). It is just the matter of mass spent on a biological shield. As long as the burnup of the onboard reactor is (very) low the radiation might be within manageable limits (after a cooldown period, spent underwater?).
 
  • #92
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From what I have been seeing on this all, I do not think they were using 'Ramjet' tech as that is tricky enough, even though they are the leaders in that area, but consider a solid, closed permanent heat source for a turbine driven jet, mass of fissiles with a singe moderating rod. One may need to use a normal fuel to get initial takeoff speed, but once in the air it becomes a constant temperature adjustment for the speed, but other than that no fuel needed other than the fissile materials and the air going through, being compressed and then heated by the heat exchanger rather than burning fuel to expand the air.

Dirty bomb just being, let alone in use.
 
  • #93
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In this particular case I think it is possible to design the test device to be reusable (with limits, of course). It is just the matter of mass spent on a biological shield. As long as the burnup of the onboard reactor is (very) low the radiation might be within manageable limits (after a cooldown period, spent underwater?).
I was thinking of the non-nuclear factors that might make a very short life. For example,

Separately, the Russians have had extensive experience with liquid metal cooled reactors, which can operate at much higher temperatures than any water cooled design. Such a reactor would be a plausible heat source for a nuclear powered missile. Afaik, one of their main problem is that the metal coolant, usually lead or some lead/bismuth alloy, is prone to dissolve the pipes in which it runs.
The mission of a cruise missile needs only a few hours lifetime. Making the design lifetime several times longer for the purpose of test flights is a big change. See the comparison to Saturn V in #49.
 
  • #94
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See the comparison to Saturn V in #49.
For reference:
The main fuel pumps in the Saturn V rocket had a design life of 200 seconds. 120 seconds of that was used in two pre-flight tests, and 60 seconds during the actual launch, leaving 20 seconds spare lifetime. My point is that components considered permanent in ordinary applications, can be considered consumable in short life applications like a missile.
The first stage of Saturn V burned for ~150 seconds and the other stages burned even longer, so I have some doubts about these numbers. Can you try to find the sources? Because I didn't find anything.
 
  • #95
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The mission of a cruise missile needs only a few hours lifetime. Making the design lifetime several times longer for the purpose of test flights is a big change.
That's okay, but:
- military hardware is expected to be sturdy by default. Not a Saturn which was just erected there and fired: you (your ship) should be able to carry it around in battle
- especially so that this case it's not that easy to clean up the mess if something goes wrong, so extra reserve is expected
- and, most importantly: a test flight in this case (with the displayed distances) is likely around a few (few dozen at most) minutes, compared to the expected few hours lifetime.
 
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  • #96
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I see no reason why the nuclear missile that the Russians seem to have (we can only guess at what point of readiness) can't stay up in air for a prolonged time, because a nuclear reactor can last a rather long time (at least conventional ones do) and so long as the temperatures don't exceed material limits and the rocket doesn't hit it's target why couldn't it buzz over in the sky given it has it's heat source and due to its large speed has it's cooling in place all the time.

@anorlunda I wasn't implying that it's the same rocket, I simply meant that based on the info we have so far it seems they have done multiple test flights with such rockets.

I would suppose that they are working on a safe landing/dumping of the missile given under operational conditions it would have not only an active reactor but also nuclear warheads on board I'd say safely landing the thing is even more important than having it in the first place.Imagine it lifts off to its target in a war situation but suddenly west declares peace with east and now you need to quickly get rid of your flying apocalypse, landing on foreign territory is too dangerous and landing in your own if something goes wrong has the risk of "friendly fire" or blowing up your own country by accident, so they better get the cancel button damn right.
 
  • #97
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Bit late to this thread, but been following this semi keenly via news.

Re the Poseidon torpedo, I would have thought this would be more or less based on conventional nuclear sub technology?, ie nuclear electric drive? I would think "silent running" would be key to avoid detection, so would have thought any sort of direct boiling of sea water would be too noisy? Didn't they also have a nuclear accident on a submersible or was that something else.

Re the nuke ramjet, I am not certain they would be ready to risk actual flight tests? I kind of assumed it was a stationary test. Perhaps the double explosion could be something went wrong, they failed to contain it properly, then something really went wrong?
 

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