We recently learned about Russia experimenting with a nuclear powered “superweapon” when everything went horribly wrong. No… not the original story. That was made to sound like a cruise missile with a nuclear reactor had blown up in midflight. This explanation has a bit of a twist. Apparently, more than a year ago, their secret weapon dropped into the White Sea. With a nuclear reactor on board. And it just… sat there. For a year.

This summer they decided to pick it up. (Thanks guys!) That’s when things really went pear-shaped and the reactor inside blew up, irradiating a wide area including some population centers. If there’s anything cool about this story it’s that we now know for sure that these superweapons don’t just go by the boring old name of 9M730 Burevestnik. They’re also called Skyfall. Doesn’t that just sound like something straight out of a James Bond movie? (Washington Times)

Russia covered up the deadly nuclear reactor explosion in August during the salvage at sea of one of Vladimir Putin’s new superweapons, a nuclear-powered cruise missile called Skyfall, a senior State Department official disclosed.

The reactor exploded Aug. 8 off the coast of the northern Russian town of Nenoska, killing seven Russians on a barge in the White Sea as they were overseeing the recovery of a sunken Skyfall. The missile had been sitting on the seafloor for about year after a failed flight test, said State Department official Thomas G. DiNanno.

“The explosion was caused by the Skyfall experiencing a criticality accident, an uncontrolled nuclear reaction that released a burst of radiation while Russian personnel retrieved it from the seafloor,” Mr. DiNanno said in an interview with The Washington Times.

Here are the major concerns being raised by some of our intelligence experts. First, the fact that Russia is testing these types of unproven weapons right out in the open with functioning nuclear reactors onboard is pretty troubling.

Second, a fully loaded nuclear reactor was allowed to sit on the ocean floor for more than a year. That’s problematic in and of itself. Even if it was an embarrassment for the Russians and might reveal some of their secret weapons testing programs, this is the kind of thing you’re supposed to let the international community know about.

On top of that, the first instinct of the Russians was to cover it all up and start spreading disinformation. They shut down the flow of data from a nuclear monitoring station in the area, preventing international monitors from becoming aware of the situation and issuing warnings. In the end, this resulted in an environmental catastrophe and the likelihood that a significant number of people were exposed to dangerous radioactive fallout.

We’ve also heard reports that the United States is already at work developing its own version of the same type of weapons. Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds a bit too much like Dr. Strangelove. Even if you’re “only” putting conventional warheads on them (the Skyfall is allegedly set up for both conventional and nuclear weapons), isn’t putting a functional nuclear reactor inside of a missile kind of a bad idea? What if you miss your target? What if it fails and crashes in your own country during launch? We can generally assume that our warheads won’t go off until they’re armed, but if you crack open a reactor core and spread it all over the countryside you’ve got a real problem on your hands.

I think Russia is teaching everyone an important lesson here. When our technology gets out in front of us, bad things can happen. We should be sitting down with them, the Chinese and anyone else playing with these toys and have a chat.