(Reuters) Moscow acknowledges mysterious rocket explosion involved nuclear workers. Quoting,
In a separate statement Rosatom said the accident occurred during the engineering and technical support of “isotope power sources” on a liquid propulsion system. It gave no further explanation, and a spokeswoman at the agency contacted by Reuters declined to clarify.
This is bunk, obfuscation. It follows the traditional Russia pattern. First, deny. Next, obfuscate. Then stonewall. It’s a predictable replay of the Skripal poisonings. The points of obfuscation:
- An isotope is a variety of an element. All elements exist as one or more isotopes. Through common usage, “isotope” has come to to refer to isotopes that are radioactive.
- All radioactive isotopes produce heat through decay, varying from minor to considerable. This is spontaneous nuclear decay, not nuclear chain reaction.
- The heat can be used to make a nuclear battery, a source of electric power, which lasts years or decades. The only current use of these batteries is for missions to the outer solar system, where sunlight is too weak to power a spacecraft.
- There was limited past use of nuclear reactors to power radar espionage satellites. Because of the enormous cost of these satellites, they have always been launched from land, and only by the most highly qualified boosters.
- There is no current use for nuclear batteries in weapons systems, which these days use chemical batteries, mainly lithium-sulfur. This leaves only a flying nuclear reactor.
The art of obfuscation deflects attention from the obvious to the obscure and implausible: A test of a rocket for an interplanetary craft or expensive spy satellite, from an unstable floating platform in the frigid arctic Onega Bay, an extension of the White Sea? Ludicrous!
Yet the Rosatom statement is not technically a lie:
- All elements are isotopes, though not all isotopes are radioactive.
- A nuclear reactor is technically an isotope power source. But this term is not understood to be a flying reactor. Obfuscation.
It is a moral lie, concealing a weapon devoid of the safeguards that make a nuclear deterrent a moral choice.
Putin has boasted about this missile. (WaPo) Putin claims Russia is developing nuclear arms capable of avoiding missile defenses. Why this obfuscation about a weapon in which Putin expressed pride?
Because, to date, it is a dangerous failure, a flying Chernobyl, which will result in at least a few excess cancer deaths in Russians. It falls short of the only moral goal of a strategic deterrent:
Protect the innocent.