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The radiation spike that followed the apparent explosion of a nuclear-powered missile engine in Russia — an event that left seven dead and has been cloaked in secrecy — was higher than previously indicated by the country’s officials, Russian government weather agency on Tuesday said

The news comes amid conflicting reports that authorities were preparing to evacuate a village close to the Arctic test site where the blast occurred and that doctors who had treated engineers injured in the blast had signed non-disclosure agreements.

Roshydromet, a state weather monitoring body, said Tuesday its sensors in a city near the Nenoksa Missile Test Site on Russia’s northern Arctic coast had picked up a spike in background radiation levels 4-16 times above the norm immediately after the blast on Friday when what officials have confirmed was a nuclear-powered missile engine exploded on a floating launch pad. The spike lasted about an hour and half, before levels returned to normal, the agency said.

The spike was still low, but above what Russian authorities on Sunday said, when officials from a nuclear research center noted the spike had been 2 times above the norm.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday issued a statement saying Russia had informed it the radiation levels around the site in the Arkhangelsk region were equivalent to natural radiation.

Campaigners and experts said although they did not want to rule out possible health risks entirely from the fallout– which they said were likely low– the main problem was how Russian authorities had handled information about the accident.

“It’s not really dangerous for health if it’s not for really long and this spike was for less than an hour,” Konstantin Fomin, a media coordinator on energy issues at the environmentalist group, Greenpeace, that has gathered its own readings in the area showing the spike was 20 times above the norm, told ABC News on Tuesday. “The real problem is lack of transparency,” Read more

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