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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Admits To Subcritical Nuclear Tests

Russia conducted five subcritical nuclear tests at an arctic testing range from September until this month, a top official said Thursday, contradicting Russia's previous denials.

Such tests are not prohibited by the international Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty because the amount of radioactive plutonium used is not enough to create a nuclear explosion.

But critics warn that carrying out even limited tests could encourage other countries to conduct full-scale nuclear tests.

Deputy Nuclear Energy Minister Lev Ryabev said that the tests on the Arctic Ocean archipelago of Novaya Zemlya were conducted between Sept. 14 and Dec. 13, Interfax reported.

Weapons-grade plutonium and enriched uranium were used during the tests, but "there was no discharge of nuclear energy," the Russian news agency quoted Ryabev as saying.

Western news reports and environmentalists claimed in September that Russia was preparing a subcritical nuclear test on Novaya Zemlya.

But Moscow denied the reports in October, after they had already begun, according to Ryabev.

General Igor Volynkin, who heads a Russian Defense Ministry department overseeing nuclear weapons, said at that time there were no plans for nuclear tests at the Novaya Zemlya range.

He said that Russia only carries out "various physical modeling experiments" that do not qualify as nuclear tests.