Israeli newspapers have further identified those scientists as contractors who had worked on Iran's Bushehr nuclear energy facility.
Nuclear experts killed in Russia plane crash helped design Iran facility
The five Russian scientists were among 44 killed earlier this week; no official investigation of foul play has been opened, though Iranian nuclear experts have in the past been involved in similar accidents.
"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 ... 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."
Russia foreign policy analyst Igor Danchencko, who worked in Iran several years ago, said many Russian scientists worked at Bushehr. "Naturally, the leadership of Gidropress was involved," Danchenko, previously with the Brookings Institution, told the Envoy by e-mail Friday. "They design or contribute to the design of all newer Russian reactors."
The plane crash "is a major loss, but not a setback for Russian nuclear power," Danchenko continued. As for Iran's Bushehr, he added, the Russian experts have basically "completed their work there, as far as I understand. Iran could operate the plant on its own from now on if it had enough fuel."
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 finish the facility, but its completion has been delayed for more than a decade. Iran announced last October that the plant was about to go online to produce power, 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 with a planned August launch, 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 intelligence sources considered Abbasi involved with alleged Iran nuclear weaponization research, and said he had been the target of an earlier unsuccessful assassination attempt. Iran blamed Israel's intelligence service Mossad for being behind a campaign of assassinations of suspected Iranian nuclear scientists.
The wreckage of Tu-134 plane, belonging to the RusAir airline, is seen on a highway near the city of Petrozavodsk Tuesday, June 21, 2011.
|Photo by: AP|
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. Russia has since announced it will phase out the fleet of aging, Soviet era Tu-134 aircraft.
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.)
The RusAir Tu-134 passenger jet on which they were travelling was bound for Petrozavodsk airport from Moscow, but crashed onto a road about one kilometre from its destination.
Rosatom mourns workers in jet crash
21 June 2011
Russian state nuclear company Rosatom reported that five senior staff from three of its subsidiary enterprises were among the 44 people who died in a plane crash in Russia's north-western republic of Karelia on 20 June. The RusAir Tu-134 passenger jet on which they were travelling was bound for Petrozavodsk airport from Moscow, but crashed onto a road about one kilometre from its destination. The airport was reportedly shrouded in fog at the time of the accident. Just eight of the 52 people on board survived the crash. Rosatom said that among those killed were three employees of Podolsk-based nuclear power reactor design and nuclear engineering organisation OKB Gidropress: Sergey Ryzhov, director and general designer; Banyuk Gennady Fedorovich, deputy director and chief designer; and Nikolai Trunov, head of department and chief designer. Andrei Petrovich Trofimov, chief technologist of Nizhny Novgorod-based machinery engineering bureau OKBM Afrikantov, and Valery Lyalin Filippovich, head of the technology department of AtomEnergoMash - the engineering division of Rosatom - also died. Rosatom said that it and its subsidiaries had "suffered a great loss."