Russian meteor posed threat to chemical and nuclear facilities

The meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains near the city of Chelyabinsk on Friday posed a threat to several sensitive chemical and nuclear facilities.

The area around Chelyabinsk is known to house a series of chemical and nuclear disposal facilities. Residents joked that the meteorite was simply another form of pollution in the region, according to

Greenpeace Russia said that the area where the actual explosion took place was only 100 kilometers from the Mayak nuclear storage and disposal facility, which holds dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium. Activists said that the Russian government is downplaying the risks to the area.

At Shchuchye, also in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, a chemical weapons disposal site contains approximately 6,000 tons of sarin and VX nerve agent. The site accounts for 14 percent of the chemical weapons arsenal Russia has pledged to eliminate.

As the meteor flew through the earth's atmosphere, increasing pressure caused it to experience a "terminal burst" when it was 20 kilometers above ground. The force produced an explosion that released an estimated 300 kilotons of energy.

"The earth's atmosphere is basically functioning as a shield for us which prevents these objects from hitting the ground at high speed," University of British Columbia Professor Brett Gladman said, reports. "If they hit the ground at supersonic speed, you have the dust going up into the atmosphere - a mini-nuclear-war kind of scenario. So it is much more dangerous if it reaches the ground at high speed."