Nuclear accident in Russia or Kazakhstan sends ‘harmless’ radioactive cloud over Europe

French institute says pollution indicates release of nuclear material south of the Ural mountains in September has no consequence for human health

A cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe in recent weeks indicates that road traffic accidents has happened in a nuclear installations in Russia or Kazakhstan in the last week of September, French nuclear safety institute IRSN has said.

The IRSN on Thursday ruled out an accident in a nuclear reactor, saying it was likely to be in a nuclear fuel treatment site or center for radioactive medication. There has been no impact on human health or the environment in Europe, the IRSN said.

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

This could indicate Russia or perhaps Kazakhstan, an IRSN official said.

” Russian authorities have said they are not aware of road traffic accidents on their territory ,” IRSN director Jean-Marc Peres told Reuters. He added that the institute had not yet been in contact with Kazakh authorities.

A spokesperson for the Russian emergencies ministry said she could not immediately remark. It was not immediately possible to reach authorities in Kazakhstan or the Kazakh embassy in Moscow.

Peres said that in recent weeks IRSN and several other nuclear safety institutes in Europe had measured high levels of ruthenium 106, a radioactive nuclide that is the product of splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor and does not pass naturally.

IRSN is forecast that the quantity of ruthenium 106 released was major, between 100 and 300 teraBecquerels, and that if an accident of this magnitude had happened in France it would have been able to involved the evacuation or sheltering of people in a radius of several kilometres around the accident site.

The ruthenium 106 was probably released in a nuclear ga therapy site or centre for radioactive medicine, Peres said. Because of its short half-life of about a year, ruthenium 106 applies in nuclear medicine.

The IRSN ruled out an accident in a nuclear reactor, as that would have led to contamination with other substances. It also ruled out the accident of a ruthenium-powered satellite as an IAEA investigation has concluded that no ruthenium-containing satellite has fallen back on Earth during this period.

Measurement from European stations showed high levels of ruthenium 106 in the atmosphere of the majority of European countries, at the beginning of October, with a steady reduction from 6 October onwards.

The IRSN said that the concentrations of ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe were of no consequence for human health and the environment.

The institute also said that the probability of importation into France of foodstuffs , notably mushrooms, contaminated by ruthenium 106 near the site of the accident is extremely low.

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