The new Russian nuclear-propelled cruise missile, referred to by NATO as the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, was last year hailed by President Vladimir Putin as capable of evading American missile defences, The New York Times reported.
The paper said that Russia’s Putin, during a state-of-the-union address in March last year, played an animated video of such missiles, describing them as powered by a small nuclear reactor and having an unlimited range, making them capable of reaching any corner of the earth.
According to The New York Times, at least seven people, including scientists, were confirmed dead as a result of Thursday’s explosion, which occurred offshore near the Nenoksa Missile Test Site.
Russia’s military, in statements carried by state news agencies, initially said that a fire broke out when a liquid-fueled rocket engine exploded at a testing site, but that radiation remained at normal background levels, The New York Times reported.
The paper said that contradicted a report by local authorities in the city of Severodvinsk, about 40 kilometres away, where an official in charge of civil defence said that two radiation meters registered a spike.
Russian news media later said radiation briefly rose to 200 times normal background levels, The New York Times reported.
It quoted Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom as saying on Saturday that the failure occurred in an “isotope power source for a liquid fueled rocket engine.”
While the wording was confusing, it was the first official acknowledgment that the accident was nuclear in nature, The New York Times reported.
The paper also said that the prospect of Russian nuclear-powered cruise missiles has been cited as a potential new kind of threat in several recent reports by the Pentagon and other US government agencies.
Source: niezalezna.pl, nytimes.com