Europe's Toxic Radiation Cloud Remains A Mystery

Europe's Toxic Radiation Cloud Remains A Mystery

Russian Federation has denied reports of a nuclear accident at its secretive nuclear facility, saying it was not responsible for high levels of radioactive presence of isotope ruthenium-106 in atmosphere in Europe.

An explosion there in 1957 exposed at least 272,000 people to risky levels of radiation.

The indicators were detected between September 25 and October 1 in the South Urals, the Russian meteorological office reports.

Russia's state nuclear agency Rosatom denied radioactivity near any of its plants was higher than usual in the country at the time, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

France's IRSN, a nuclear safety institute, ruled out the possibility of an accident in a nuclear reactor and believes the material it detected is more likely to have been released from a nuclear fuel treatment site or centre for radioactive medicine. "It also demands a check whether the atmospheric radionuclide monitoring system is sufficiently prepared for possible accidents, and whether public health around a possible release of Ruthenium 106 was sufficiently protected".

A cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe had indicated that an accident had taken place at a nuclear facility either in Russian Federation or Kazakhstan in the last week of September. The plant has been involved in several incidents in the past, including contaminating a river in 2004 and in 1957 when the plant triggered what has been called the world's "second biggest nuclear disaster in history" after a storage tank exploded and tens of thousands of people were contaminated.

The good news though is that the radiation cloud is expected to be harmless, with even these dramatically heightened levels of ruthenium-106 said to be of "no outcome for human health and for the environment".

Europe's Toxic Radiation Cloud Remains A Mystery
Europe's Toxic Radiation Cloud Remains A Mystery

But the fact that Roshydromet itself detected the radiation cloud using two monitoring stations surrounding the Mayak nuclear facility - one of the largest plants in Russian Federation - is leading others to question those claims.

Russia's weather service acknowledged it had measured pollution of ruthenium-106 at 1000 times normal levels in the Ural mountains. Today, Mayak is a reprocessing site for spent nuclear fuel.

Ruthenium-106 is a product of splitting atoms in a reactor and does not occur naturally.

The exact source of the spike, however, remains a mystery, though IRSN suggested that the cause might be an accident.

At Beacon, in turn, argue that the release of ruthenium-106 are irrelevant and stated that after checking his background radiation did not reveal any abnormalities.

"Greenpeace will send a letter asking prosecutors to open an inquiry into potential concealment of a nuclear incident", it said in a statement.

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