Russia’s chief nuclear official says the country will continue to pursue the development of new weapons, following the death of five top Russian nuclear scientists in an explosion last week.
Alexei Likhachev, director of Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom, said in a memorial service for the five scientists in Sarov on Monday that they were 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 said.
The explosion that killed the five scientists took place at an Arctic military facility on the coast of the White Sea last Thursday.
US military specialists speculate that the incident was linked to the testing of the new “Burevestnik” cruise missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin had touted earlier this year.
Rosatom officials said the incident occurred during the testing of a rocket.
In a video interview published late Sunday, an official at the scientists’ research institute in Sarov said they had been working on “sources of thermal or electric energy, using radioactive materials, including fissile materials and radioisotope materials.”
The official, Vyacheslav Solovyev, did not provide specifics, however.
He said such work was normal.
“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,” Solovyev said, explaining that the institute’s work served both civilian and military objectives.
The head of the nuclear center, Valentin Kostyukov, also said that the test had been preceded by a year of careful work and that a state commission was investigating what went wrong.
“These people were the elite of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center and have tested under some of the most incredibly difficult conditions,” he said of the deceased scientists.
While US President Donald Trump has attempted to develop a personal relationship with Putin, tensions between the two countries have been exacerbated by the demise earlier this month of a bilateral nuclear missile treaty.
In a state of the nation address earlier this year, Putin announced the development of “invincible” missiles, threatening to deploy them against “decision-making centers” in Western countries if there were serious threats against Russia.
And after the explosion at the Russian research center, Trump wrote on Twitter, “The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!” “Skyfall” is the term used by NATO to refer to the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.