Radiation levels in the Russian city of Severodvinsk rose by up to 16 times on Aug. 8 after an accident that authorities said involved a rocket test on a sea platform, Russia’s state weather agency said on Tuesday, the TASS news agency reported.
The defense ministry initially said background radiation had remained normal after the incident on Thursday, but city authorities in Severodvinsk in northern Russia said there had been a brief spike in radiation levels.
Greenpeace has said radiation levels rose by 20 times.
Russia’s state weather agency, Rosgidromet, said on Tuesday that it believed radiation levels had risen by four to 16 times.
In a sign of how serious the situation in the accident area remains, Russian news agencies cited authorities as advising residents of the nearby village of Nyonoksa to briefly leave while clear-up work was being carried out. That recommendation was later rescinded, the same news agencies reported.
Russia’s top nuclear official promised on Monday to succeed in developing new weapons as he paid tribute to five scientists killed in what U.S. experts suspect was the botched test of a new missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin.
The five scientists killed in last week’s incident were buried in the closed city of Sarov on Monday.
Experts suspect the radiation release resulted from a mishap during the testing of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.
The Burevestnik was one of an array of new strategic weapons touted by Putin last year. Tensions between Moscow and Washington over arms control have been exacerbated by the demise this month of a landmark nuclear treaty.
The Kremlin has not commented on the accident.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday the United States was “learning much” from the explosion.
“The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!” Trump said, using the NATO alliance’s name for the Burevestnik.
At memorial events in Sarov that included a gun salute, Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev praised the deceased nuclear experts as the “pride of the country” and the “pride of the atomic sector.”
“The best tribute to them will be our continued work on new models of weapons, which will definitely be carried out to the end,” Likhachev was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.
In a video interview published late on Sunday, an official at the scientists’ research institute in Sarov did not spell out exactly what they had been doing, but suggested that they had been working on a small nuclear reactor.
The official, Vyacheslav Solovyev, said the institute was working on “sources of thermal or electric energy using radioactive materials, including fissile materials and radioisotope materials.”
He said “these developments are also actually happening in many countries. The Americans last year … also tested a small-scale reactor … Our center also continues to work in this direction.”
The institute’s work serves both civilian and military ends, he said.
The city administration in Sarov, which is around 400 km (250 miles) east of Moscow, announced two days of mourning, saying the experts died while “performing a task of national importance,” RIA reported.
Rosatom named the five dead scientists as Alexei Vyushin, Evgeny Koratayev, Vyacheslav Lipshev, Sergei Pichugin and Vladislav Yanovsky.
Anxious local residents in Severodvinsk have reportedly stocked up on iodine, used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure.
Moscow has a history of secrecy over major accidents, most notably after a 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the then-Soviet republic of Ukraine – now regarded as the worst nuclear accident in history.