Mysterious radioactivity spreads over Europe
Most European countries have reportedly detected radioactive pollution in the air without being able to tell where exactly it has originated from.
High levels of the radioactive isotope Ruthenium-106 have been measured in the air in “a majority of European countries” since October, according to German media.
“Measurement results from European stations communicated to the Institute since October 3 have confirmed the presence of Ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere of the majority of European countries,” the French nuclear safety institute IRSN said on Thursday.
Ruthenium-106 is a radioactive nuclide that is the product of splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor.
Officials, who say there is no risk to human health, are puzzled over the source of the pollution.
The IRSN speculated that an accident may have happened in a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan, causing the radioactive cloud to spread over Europe. IRSN suggested the leak took place in the last week of September, south of the Ural mountains near the Volga River, the longest river in Europe.
‘Russia unaware of any incident’
The group’s director, Jean-Marc Peres, however, told Reuters that, “Russian authorities have said they are not aware of an accident on their territory.”
Peres said that, in recent weeks, the IRSN and several other nuclear safety institutes in Europe had measured high levels of Ruthenium-106, which is the product of splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor and does not occur naturally.
He said the Ruthenium-106 was probably released in a nuclear fuel treatment site or at a center for radioactive medicine. He ruled out chances of an accident in a nuclear reactor, as that would have led to contamination with other substances aside from Ruthenium-106.
Ruthenium-106 is used in nuclear medicine.
On September 12, 2011 an explosion at a French nuclear recycling plant in Marcoule left one person dead and four others injured.
French authorities reported at the time that there had been no indication of radiation leaks at the plant.