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New details on Russia’s mysterious missile disaster suggest a nuclear reactor blew up

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BUSINESS INSIDER:

A mysterious explosion at a Russian weapons testing site earlier this month released various radioactive isotopes, creating a cloud of radioactive gases that swept across a nearby town, the country’s state weather agency said Monday, and experts said the mixture removes all doubt about what blew up.

The deadly August 8 blast at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range released a handful of rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes — strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, and lanthanum-140 — which have half-lives ranging from 83 minutes to 12.8 days, the Roshydromet national weather and environmental monitoring agency said in a statement on test samples.

“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.”

Alexander Uvarov, the editor of the independent news site AtomInfo.ru, told the news agency RIA Novosti that these isotopes were products of nuclear fission involving uranium, Agence France-Presse reported Monday. This collection of radioisotopes could be released by a reaction involving uranium-235.

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