Nov 25 2017

The radioactive cloud over Europe

A cloud of radioactive isotopes was recently blown across Europe from one of the countries of the former Soviet Union, experts from French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) reported.

First detected over Italy on Oct. 3, trace amounts of Ruthenium 106, a byproduct of the nuclear industry, were later reported over France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe in October, IRSN said, emphasising that the levels of radiation posed no risk to human health:

The concentration levels of Ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe and especially in France are of no consequence for human health and for the environment.

Based on meteorological models, IRSN located the plausible release zone as Chelyabinsk region near the Russia-Kazakhstan border, where a few nuclear facilities with a spotty safety records remain, NPR reported.

Russian officials initially denied and later questioned the results, despite Russian state weather service Roshydromet’s confirmation of high radiation measurements near the Mayak nuclear reprocessing and isotope production plant in late September.

Russian industrial safety watchdog Rostekhnadzor has not found any breaches at the Mayak nuclear facility, state-run TASS news agency reported.

The half-life of Ruthenium 106 is about a year, meaning that half of the material will have decayed by winter 2018 and will not require an environmental cleanup operation, The Guardian reported.