DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 23, 2011, 12:00 PM (GMT+02:00)
The three Russian nuclear scientists who planned, designed, built and put into operation Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr this year, died Tuesday night, June 20, when a Rusaero flight from Moscow to Petrozavodsk in northwest Russia crashed.
DEBKAfile's sources reveal that they were among the 44 passengers who were killed.
Their loss is a severe blow to Russia's atomic reactor industry as well as its nuclear program as a whole, since the three, Sergey Ryzhov, Gennady Banuyk and Nikolay Trunov, specialized in running installations in tandem and synchronizing various systems.
The Russian company OKB Gidropress, Moscow, which employed them as chief planners of nuclear plants, is proud of having sold reactors to five countries including Iran.
The authorities have ordered an investigation to find out why all three senior nuclear scientists were aboard the same airliner in violation of Russian security regulations which prohibit more than one high-ranking politician, military figure or executive of a sensitive industry taking the same flight.
The cause of the Tu-134's crash is also being probed - although it has a notoriously high accident rate and should not have been used by the three scientists. The eight passengers who survived, who are in critical condition, are to be quizzed to find out what happened aboard the plane before it crashed.
The first assumption was that the disaster occurred due to human error. The three pilots missed the runway while landing at Petrozavodsk's Nikolay Trunov airport because of heavy fog. It caught fire next to a highway.
This was the worst Russian aviation disaster since April 10, 2010, when a plane carrying the Polish president, his wife and many other Polish dignitaries crashed in similar circumstances near the city of Smolensk killing 97 people.
Our sources report that Iran chose to buy its first reactor from OKB Gidropress because the Russian firm bills itself as designers, builders, planners and operators of nuclear plants, specializing in adapting them to existing nuclear systems. For Tehran this capability was critical because the Bushehr reactor is composed of systems made in different countries, particularly Germany, and experts were needed for synchronizing them into a smoothly functioning plant.
DEBKAfile's intelligence sources quote Iranian and Western intelligence officials as offering the opinion that the Bushehr reactor's mixed components made it vulnerable to the Stuxnet malworm's invasion of its control system two years ago. The three Russian scientists spent February and March 2011 at Bushehr after the Russian Nuclear Energy Commission insisted that the nuclear fuel rods be removed until they were sure the plant would not explode. The rods have since been reloaded and the reactor went online last month.
Wednesday, June 22, the OKB Gidropress Company Web site ran a black-bordered obituary mourning the deaths of Sergey Ryzhov, 52, Director General designer at OKB Gidropress, Gennady Banuyk, 65, Deputy Director and Chief Designer and Nikolay Trunov, 52, Chief Designer-Head of Division.
for more information, see Haaretz, here ...