PSA – Mushroom Clouds Are Not Necessarily Nuclear

There have been two notable explosions in Russia this past week.

  1. An arms storage depot exploded at Achinsk, near Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia. Every summer, a couple of arms storage depots explode in Russia. They have a lot of them, and their safety measures leave something to be desired. Explosions have continued for a week. Once they start, it’s dangerous to fight the fire that started them and continues. Better to evacuate the area (which has been done) and let the burning and exploding continue until there’s nothing left.

This event has produced some impressive video. Because of the relative humidity, you can see the shock wave as water in the air condenses and evaporates rapidly. Mushroom-shaped clouds have resulted. Large enough explosions, whether conventional or nuclear, produce mushroom clouds. Mushroom clouds are not a marker for a nuclear explosion.

  1. Something blew up at Nenoksa, near the Severodvinsk Naval Base in far northwestern Russia. Reports are fragmentary and somewhat contradictory. That’s not surprising in the beginning of a disaster, but suspicions are exacerbated by the recent showing of Chernobyl. When the Chernobyl reactor blew up, the Soviet government covered it up until they couldn’t. Which is not to say that the Russian government is or is not covering up now. So far, the confusion looks to me like the normal confusion associated with a disaster, compounded by a secret project and a desire not to admit it’s going badly.

The Russian government has now admitted that a radioactive source was associated with the Severodvinsk blast. Put that together with the Achinsk mushroom cloud and…mnh-hmnh, the crazies are running with it, which is why I am writing this post. There have been conflicting reports about radiation detected in the city of Severodvinsk. At most, it seems to have been a transient pulse of only a little bit of whatever it was. No abnormal radiation has been detected in Europe. We should hear more about that in the coming week.

Here’s a map. The pin is at the Severodvinsk Naval Base. Look toward the right, almost past Kazakhstan, and there’s Krasnoyarsk.

Map 190810


Here’s the video of the very impressive explosion at Achinsk. There’s another one of a later explosion there that also shows the shockwave well and a mushroomish cloud.

I have some thoughts about what may have happened in the Nenoksa explosion. I’ll write another post on that.



Update: A friend who spends time in Krasnoyarsk pointed out to me that I had the map wrong. I corrected it.

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice

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