New details are being released about a mysterious explosion at a weapons testing facility in Russia. The country's weather and environment monitoring agency released information about a cloud of radioactive gasses that swept across the nearby town of Severodvinsk.
The cloud contained rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes, including strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, and lanthanum-140. The half-lives of the isotopes range from 83 minutes to nearly 13 days. The cloud caused radiation in the area to peak and it briefly climbed to 16 times above average. Officials pointed out the radiation levels were not high enough to pose any danger.
The Russian government initially claimed a rocket had exploded but later backtracked and explained that the accident occurred "during tests of a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes."
They believe the new information proves that a nuclear reactor blew up at the weapons testing facility.
"These are fission products," Joshua Pollack, a leading expert on nuclear and missile proliferation, told Insider. "If anyone still doubts that a nuclear reactor was involved in this incident, this report should go a long way toward resolving that."
Nils Bohmer, a Norwegian nuclear-safety expert, explained that "the presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction," and said it is unlikely a nuclear-powered propulsion system would produce them.
Seven people were killed and five others were injured in the explosion on August 8, but Russian officials have not released many details about the incident. They reportedly ordered doctors who treated the wounded to sign non-disclosure agreements and they destroyed the hospital records.
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