Source in Russia? Northern Europe registers increased radioactivity

Several Scandinavian countries have measured slightly elevated radiation levels. The results indicate an incident in an nuclear reactor. Is it from Russia?

A message from Scandinavia catches the eye: after Norway, Finland and Sweden measured increased radioactivity, the organization of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Agreement and the International Atomic Energy Agency also reported. Chillreport explains the situation.

What was measured

The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (DSA) made the first striking findings. In the first week of June, very small amounts of radioactive iodine-131 were measured at two monitoring stations in northeastern Norway on the border with the Russian peninsula of Kola. It decomposes relatively quickly, its half-life is eight days. Further south, on 16 and 17 June Sweden encountered small amounts of long-lived radioactive isotopes in Finland: cobalt-60, ruthenium-103, cesium-134 and cesium-137. The organization behind the non-proliferation treaty, the CTBTO, which operates its own measurement network, also registered cesium and ruthenium in Sweden on 22 and 23 June. The said nuclides are all fission products from nuclear power plant processes, i.e. artificial radioactive materials.

How dangerous is the radiation?

All authorities emphasize that the measured values ​​do not endanger people or nature. The highest value at the border with Russia was 1.3 millibecquerels per cubic meter of air. For comparison: In September and October 2017, radioactive ruthenium-106 was detected in many European countries. In Germany, the Federal Agency for Radiation Protection reported a maximum value of approximately five millibecquerels per cubic meter of air, assuring that it was 100,000 times less than the value at which public protection measures had to be taken.

Wild boar meat, in which cesium is still found 34 years after the Chernobyl disaster, can be sold up to a radiation level of 600,000 millibecquerels per kilogram.

Where do the radiant particles come from?

The Scandinavian countries are reluctant to make statements. The organization of the comprehensive nuclear test ban has become somewhat more specific. However, Lassina Zerbo, head of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Organization (CTBTO), tweeted a map to show where the possible place of origin could have been 72 hours earlier. It is a huge area.

Zerbo said the organization can pinpoint the likely region of the source. “But it is outside the CTBTO’s mandate to find out the exact origin.” The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday that it had asked the countries for information whether these radioisotopes had been detected and whether an incident was compatible with the release.

The Dutch National Institute for the Environment said that the radionuclides must have been the result of damage to a fuel assembly. Our own calculations have shown that the nuclides must come from western Russia. Due to the few measurements, an exact place of origin cannot be determined.

What does Russia say?

No mention was made of the side of the nuclear monopoly Rosenergoatom, the operator of the civil installations. There is also nothing to report, agencies Interfax and Tass report, citing the group. Control values ​​were not exceeded at the two nuclear power stations Leningrad and Kola. The website of the Russian environmental monitoring agency Roshydromet does not show elevated values ​​at any measuring point.

How plausible is that?

Greenpeace Russia refers to this. that the release is also possible through the reactor of a nuclear icebreaker or nuclear submarine. The Russian Environmental Control Agency has also criticized the outdated monitoring stations of the state nuclear energy agency Rosatom in the past. Detection of radionuclides in low concentrations is only possible with special devices with air separators that pass large amounts of air through filters.

In addition: Russia also rejected the fact that the ruthenium 106 cloud measured across Europe in 2017 that the source could be an incident in Russia. International investigative teams have come to this conclusion.

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