Russian nuclear scientists working on Iran’s Bushehr reactor among plane crash victims
"The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM and our subsidiaries had suffered a great loss," the Russian agency said on its website Wedneesday. "Five senior staff from three of our subsidiary enterprises were among the 45 people who died in a plane crash in Russia's north-western republic of Karelia on 20 June.
The RusAir Tupelev-134 passenger jet, which took off from Moscow's Domodedova airport, crashed on approach to the Petrozavodsk airport late Monday, killing 45 of the 53 passengers and crew members aboard.
Among the dead were the following scientists employed at Rosatom subsidiaries: Sergey Ryzhov, director and general designer of OKB Gidropress; Banyuk Gennady Fedorovich, deputy director and chief designer of OKB Gidropress; Nikolai Trunov, head of department and chief designer of OKB Gidropress; Andrei Trofimov, chief technologist of OKBM Afrikantov; and Valery Lyalin, head of the technology department of AtomEnergoMash.
"The five nuclear experts killed in a plane crash in northern Russia earlier this week had assisted in the design of an Iranian atomic facility," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Thursday, citing security sources in Russia.
"The experts--who included lead designers Sergei Rizhov, Gennadi Benyok, Nicolai Tronov and Russia's top nuclear technological experts, Andrei Tropinov--worked at [Iran's] Bushehr [nuclear power facility] after the contract for the plant's construction passed from the German Siemens company to Russian hands" in 1995, the Haaretz report continued. "The five were employed at the Hydropress factory, a member of Russia's state nuclear corporation, and one of the main companies to contract for the Bushehr construction."
German's Siemens Corp. began construction of the Bushehr nuclear power facility in 1975, but broke off work in 1980 after the United States imposed an arms embargo on Iran. In 1995, Iran contracted with Russia to complete the facility, but its completion has been delayed for more than a decade. Iran announced that the plant would begin producing nuclear power last October, but later had to remove fuel rods out of technical and safety concerns.
Iran's atomic energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi met with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of a nuclear safety conference at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Tuesday. Abbasi used the occasion to announce the Bushehr power facility was proceeding on schedule, and that safety concerns with the facility had been satisfactorily addressed.
"After loading the fuel [into the reactor], the Russians were also doubtful that a problem might have occurred, and the so-called minor breakdown in the equipment led both sides to decide to remove the fuel from the core of the reactor, recheck it, and put it back into the core [of the reactor]," Abbasi said, according to Iran's Press TV.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Thursday that Israeli intelligence sources considered Abbasi involved with Iran nuclear weaponization programs, and said he had been the target of an earlier unsuccessful assassination attempt. Iran blamed Israel's intelligence service the Mossad for being behind a campaign of assassinations of suspected Iranian nuclear scientists.
The cause of this week's plane crash, a kilometer from the runway at Petrozavodsk airport in Russia's northwest Karelia province near Finland, is being investigated. Early reports suggested that investigators were examining pilot error, mechanical problems with the aging Tu-134 aircraft, as well as fog and weather issues.
Also among those killed were a family of four with dual Russian-American citizenship. Alexander Simanov and his wife Lyudmila Simanova, originally from Petrozavodsk, ran a software company in Weston, Florida. They and their two young daughters, Yekatarina "Katya" and Yelizaveta "Liza" Simanova, were being mourned by teachers, schoolmates and friends in their community near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, local media reported.
(Russia's state atomic energy corporation Rosatom identified five scientists employed by its subsidiaries as having died in a plane crash Monday. Among them (l to r): Sergey Ryzhov, Gennady Banyuk and Nikolay Trunov. Via the Daily Mail.)