Ra­dioac­tive cloud drifts from Rus­sia to western Europe

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Henry Sa­muel in Paris

A CLOUD of ra­dioac­tive pol­lu­tion spread over Europe af­ter a pos­si­ble “ac­ci­dent” at a nu­clear fa­cil­ity in Rus­sia or Kaza­khstan, French nu­clear safety of­fi­cials con­firmed yes­ter­day.

France’s nu­clear safety in­sti­tute, IRSN, picked up faint traces of ruthe­nium 106, a ra­dioac­tive nu­clide that is pro­duced when atoms are split in a nu­clear re­ac­tor and which does not oc­cur nat­u­rally, in three of its 40 mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions in late Sept. Faint traces were also de­tected in Ger­many, Aus­tria, Italy and Switzer­land.

There has been no im­pact on hu­man health or the en­vi­ron­ment in Europe, a French of­fi­cial stressed, but he added that de­tec­tion of such a cloud was “ab­so­lutely not nor­mal”.

IRSN, the tech­ni­cal arm of French nu­clear reg­u­la­tor, said it could not pin­point the lo­ca­tion of the re­lease of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial but that based on weather pat­terns, the most plau­si­ble zone lay south of the Ural moun­tains, be­tween the Urals and the Volga river.

This could in­di­cate Rus­sia or pos­si­bly Kaza­khstan, it said, adding that if an ac­ci­dent of this mag­ni­tude had hap­pened in France it would have re­quired the evac­u­a­tion or shel­ter­ing of peo­ple in a ra­dius of “a few kilo­me­tres around the ac­ci­dent site”.

But it said that the prob­a­bil­ity of im­por­ta­tion into France of food­stuffs, no­tably mush­rooms, con­tam­i­nated by ruthe­nium 106 near the site of the ac­ci­dent was ex­tremely low. Mea­sure­ments from Euro­pean sta­tions showed high lev­els of ruthe­nium 106 in the at­mos­phere of the ma­jor­ity of Euro­pean coun­tries at the be­gin­ning of Oct, with a steady de­crease from Oct 6. France picked up traces of the pol­lu­tion in mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions of Sey­nesur-mer, Nice and Ajac­cio from Sept 27 to Oct 13, and has not de­tected any since.

Mr Gariel said that, ac­cord­ing to “the data at our dis­posal, no ruthe­nium 106 was de­tected in the UK”.

Dun­can Cox, leader of Pub­lic Health Eng­land’s ra­di­a­tion emer­gency re­sponse group, said: “Ra­di­a­tion mon­i­tors at our sites in Ox­ford­shire and Glas­gow have been checked since Septem­ber when this sub­stance was re- ported by other Euro­pean ra­di­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing in­sti­tutes, and we have not de­tected any un­usual sources of ra­di­a­tion.”

IRSN ruled out an ac­ci­dent in a nu­clear re­ac­tor. “We ob­served only ruthe­nium, which in­di­cates it couldn’t come from a nu­clear re­ac­tor as we would have seen other fis­sion prod­ucts, like Cae­sium,” said Jean-christophe Gariel, direc­tor for health at the IRSN.

The ruthe­nium 106 was prob­a­bly re­leased in a nu­clear fuel treat­ment site or cen­tre for ra­dioac­tive medicine, he said. Be­cause of its short half-life of about a year, ruthe­nium 106 is used in nu­clear medicine. He had con­tacted his Rus­sian col­leagues, and they in­sisted noth­ing was amiss. “From their point of view, they said they had had no prob­lems.”

Rosatom, the Rus­sian nu­clear op­er­a­tor, said it had de­tected noth­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.