How It Works
Mysterious radiation spike detected over Scandinavia
Radioactivity levels have spiked in the atmosphere over northern Europe, and that could indicate damage at a nuclear power plant in western Russia, according to a Dutch health agency that has analysed the data. The radioactive spike suggests damage to a nuclear fuel element. However, the Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom has denied problems related to facilities in Kola and Leningrad, the two nuclear plants operating in the region. Several Scandinavian watchdog agencies detected the elevated levels of the radionuclides, or radioactive isotopes. Radionuclides are atoms whose nuclei are unstable; the excess energy inside the nucleus gets released through radioactive decay. In particular, concentrations of the radionuclides cesium-134, cesium-137 and ruthenium-103 rose in parts of Finland, southern Scandinavia and the Arctic, confirmed Lassina Zerbo. Though these pose no harm to humans, they are byproducts of nuclear fission. “The radionuclides are artificial – that is to say they are human-made. The composition of the nuclides may indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant,” said an official with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, which analysed the isotope data. Because so few measurements have been taken, monitoring agencies weren’t able to identify a specific source.