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Five nuclear agency staff died in Russia missile test explosion

MOSCOW: Russia said Saturday an explosion at an Arctic missile testing site killed five nuclear agency staff and involved radioactive isotopes after a nearby city reported a spike in radiation levels.

In a statement, Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom said the accident on Thursday at a secret military facility also left three staff with burns and other injuries.

The military had not previously described the accident as involving nuclear fuel and said radiation levels were normal afterwards.

But officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported that radiation levels were briefly raised after the accident.

The accident occurred in the far northern Arkhangelsk region during testing of a liquid propellant jet engine. An explosion sparked a fire, killing two, the defence ministry said in a brief statement.

Rosatom said its staff were providing engineering and technical support for the “isotope power source” of the engine being tested.

The authorities have released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles deployed in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

The defence ministry said six defence ministry employees and a developer were injured while two “specialists” died of their wounds.

It was not immediately clear whether the death toll reported by Rosatom included the fatalities announced earlier by the defence ministry.

Russian state news agencies quoted a defence ministry source as saying both defence ministry and Rosatom employees were killed.

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