Four Russian radioactivity measuring stations suddenly “went silent”

Four Russian radioactivity measurement stations have stopped transmitting data in response to a mysterious explosion at a military test center in the Arkhangelsk region, according to statements by the head of the Nuclear Test Ban Organization in the Wall Street Journal.

Observatories in Bilibino, northeast Russia, and Zalesovo, in the south of the country, stopped sending data on August 13, Lashina Zerbo told the US newspaper. Three days earlier the units in Dubna and Kirov had been shut down.

Moscow has attributed the disruption to telecommunications problems, Mr Zerbo said, while refusing to speculate on the causes of the problem.

However, the sudden silence of four stations measuring radioactivity a few days after the August 8th eruption reignites concerns that the Russian authorities are seeking to minimize information on the accident where the Russian servicemen were killed.

The explosion saw a sharp but brief rise in radiation levels in the nearby town of Severodvinsk, according to measurements by the Russian Meteorological Service.

Rosatom has admitted that the explosion is linked to research into the development of a radioactive isotope propulsion system – the so-called nuclear battery.

There is strong but unconfirmed suspicion that the explosion is linked to a test of the so-called “Skyfall”, a nuclear-powered cruise missile launched by President Vladimir Putin in March last year.

Although the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Testing has not entered into force, as it has not been ratified by a sufficient number of countries, the body responsible for compliance with the Treaty collects and disseminates data to member states.