Environment Pollution in MultiCountries on October 06 2017 04:14 AM (UTC).
A senior executive at the Russian nuclear processing plant suspected of being behind a spike of radioactivity over Europe this fall admitted Wednesday that the isotope recorded does emerge as part of the plant's production cycle but said its levels are negligible. Russian officials last month reported high levels of Ruthenium-106 in areas close to the Mayak nuclear plant in the Ural Mountains. The environmental group Greenpeace alleged that Mayak could have been the source of a Ruthenium-106 leak, but the plant said it has not extracted the isotope or conducted any other operations that may lead to its release "for many years." But Yuri Mokrov, an adviser to Mayak's director general, said in a webcast press conference Wednesday that Ruthenium-106 routinely emerges during the processing of spent nuclear fuel. Mokrov insisted, however, the plant was not the source of any major leak, saying it does not produce the isotope on purpose and that the emissions that the plant makes are so insignificant "we can only see it in the chimney." A Russian panel of experts dispatched to investigate the leak has failed to identify where the isotope came from but alleged that it could have come from a satellite that came down from its orbit and disintegrated in the atmosphere. The commission said last week that a thorough inspection of the Mayak plant and its personnel had found no safety breaches. "There is Ruthenium in spent nuclear fuel, and Mayak during its activities routinely comes across this isotope," Mokrov said, adding that "actual emissions are hundreds times lower the permitted levels." Mayak, in Russia's Chelyabinsk region, saw one of the world's worst nuclear accidents on Sept. 29, 1957, when a waste tank exploded. That contaminated 23,000 square kilometers (9,200 square miles) of territory and prompted authorities to evacuate 10,000 residents from neighboring regions.
After an extremely high content of radioactive substances, which was nearly 1,000 times above the usual radioactive pollution level, was registered in the Russian Chelyabinsk region in September, Lithuania sent a note to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reports LETA/BNS. "We have drafted and sent a note to IAEA over the incident, calling for scrutiny of all circumstances and ensure (compliance to) the 1986 Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident," Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas told BNS. Vaiciunas said he asked earlier this week for the European Commission's (EC) support on the matter. "I was clearly assured that immediate steps would be taken shortly to establish the IAEA procedures to ensure everything in IAEA. The European Commission would double-check. I believe we will have the results shortly," said the energy minister. During one of Europe's biggest wind energy conferences in Amsterdam on Tuesday, Vaiciunas met with EC Deputy President for Energy Gerassimos Thomas. "I expressed my huge astonishment over the process that occurred - the leak of ruthenium (ruthenium-106 isotope). The fact occurred in late September and was only established two months later. There are certain instruments and international conventions for this. I raised the question about why the instruments don't work and stated my clear position that we cannot trust the development of nuclear energy in Belarus, regardless of its technological credibility," said the energy minister. Russia's meteorological service confirmed at the end of November that the extremely high concentration of ruthenium-106 had been recorded in the country's few regions close to the station in Argayash village in the Chelyabinsk region in southern Ural, exceeding the usual level by a factor of 986. The figures were established close to the nuclear company Majak. Russia disclosed the information only after France's radiation safety and nuclear safety institute (IRSN) announced on Nov. 9 that the samples of air taken on Sept. 27 through Oct. 13 contained the radioactive isotope, ruthenium-106. Ruthenium-106 forms in a nuclear reactor during atom splitting, it does not exist naturally. It is also used in medical equipment used for radiation therapy. Lithuania's officials say the incident heightens Lithuania's fears over the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus by Russia's Rosatom concern.
A Russian scientific commission will investigate reports of radioactive pollution almost 1,000 times above normal levels in the southern Urals, state nuclear company Rosatom said Friday. The move comes despite Russia's denial that a nuclear accident had occurred at any of its nuclear facilities. "Nuclear scientists have created a commission to discover the origin of ruthenium-106," Rosatom said in a statement, also released by the country's Nuclear Safety Institute. The commission will include representatives of "Russian and European scientific organisations," according to the statement. "Rosatom will offer all necessary assistance to this commission and will inform the public of the results." On Monday, Russian meteorologists said a station close to the Mayak nuclear facility in the Chelyabinsk region detected "extremely high pollution" of the ruthenium-106 isotope during tests in late September. The radioactive isotope is created by splitting atoms in a reactor and does not occur naturally. Rosatom previously said there were "no incidents" at nuclear infrastructure facilities in Russia and that the concentration detected posed little threat. Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia's agricultural safety watchdog, on Friday denied "possible radioactive contamination" of land in the area, in response to concerns. The Mayak facility in the southern Urals, which is under Rosatom's umbrella, has said the contamination "has nothing to do with Mayak's activities". The facility, which reprocesses nuclear fuel, said it has not produced Ru-106 for several years. Mayak was the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history when a container holding radioactive waste exploded in 1957, prompting the evacuation of nearly 13,000 people from the area.
Russia's meteorological service said on Tuesday it had measured pollution of a radioactive isotope at nearly 1,000 times normal levels in the Ural mountains, the first official Russian data supporting reports that a nuclear incident had taken place. The data appears to back up a report by the French nuclear safety institute IRSN, which said on Nov. 9 a cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe had indicated some kind of leak had taken place at a nuclear facility either in Russia or Kazakhstan in the last week of September. Neither Russia nor Kazakhstan has acknowledged any accident. Russian state weather service Roshydromet said in a statement it had found "extremely high pollution" of ruthenium 106 in samples from two meteorological stations in the southern Urals region in late September and early October. At the Agrayash weather station the levels were 986 times those of the previous month, while at the Novogorny station they were 440 times higher. The weather service did not rule out that the radioactive isotope could be absorbed into the atmosphere and reach Europe. Western scientists said the ruthenium 106 levels disclosed did not by themselves indicate any major health threat, although it was still unclear what had happened. "Ruthenium is very rare and hence its presence may suggest that an event of some nature has occurred. That being said, the natural abundance is so low that even a factor of 900 up on natural levels is still very low," said Malcolm Sperrin, director of the Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at Oxford University Hospitals in England. Professor Paddy Regan at the University of Surrey said the fact that the ruthenium was found in isolation, rather than with other radioactive materials "suggests a leak from a fuel/reprocessing plant or somewhere they are separating the ruthenium" rather than a bigger nuclear accident. "If it was a reactor leak or nuclear explosion, other radioisotopes would also be present in the 'plume' and from the reports, they are not," Regan said. He said any health effect would be negligible.

"The measurement of its presence in the amounts reported suggest that any biological effects of exposure to this source are essentially similar to that of the normal, naturally occurring radiation background," he told Reuters. Russia's Consumer Rights Protection service said in a statement that the ruthenium 106 posed no threat to public health. Andrey Vazhenin, the main oncology specialist of the Chelyabinsk region where the two weather stations are located, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying people had nothing no worry about. Those concerned should instead "watch football and drink beer". Still, some researchers called for a more complete investigation. Bruno Chareyron, head of independent French nuclear laboratory CRIIRAD, called on the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to order an inspection and impose protective measures. "It is deplorable that 31 years after Chernobyl we again remain completely in the dark about what has happened," Chareyron said. The Agrayash weather station is located about 30 km (20 miles) from Mayak, a huge plant that reprocesses nuclear fuel and produces radioactive material for industrial and research purposes, owned by Russian state nuclear company Rosatom. Mayak accounts for half of Russian exports of radioactive isotopes. In a statement, Mayak denied that its plant was the source of increased level of ruthenium 106. Rosatom said there were no accidents at any of its facilities which could increase the level of ruthenium 106 in the atmosphere. Greenpeace said in a statement on Tuesday that it would ask Russia's prosecutors' office to investigate whether there had been an accident in the area. "It also demands a check into whether the atmospheric radionuclide monitoring system is sufficiently prepared for possible accidents, and whether public health around a possible release of Ruthenium 106 was sufficiently protected," the environmental pressure group said in a statement. The Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kazakhstan, which neighbors the southern Urals, has said there were no accidents at its scientific research reactor and no ruthenium 106 at its two disused testing areas in western Kazakhstan.
There are further indications that the release of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 could be traced back to the Mayak nuclear facility in the Ural region, a reprocessing site for spent nuclear fuel. Russian meteorological service Rosgidromet confirmed on Monday the release of Ru-106 (ruthenium) in the southern Urals in late September and early October, classifying it as an "extremely high contamination." French nuclear safety institute IRSN reported on November 9 that radioactivity had been detected in France between September 27 and October 13, and that it likely stemmed from Russia or Kazakhstan. At the Russian measuring station Argayash, the highest level measured was 986 times that of the previous month, the Russian weather service said in a statement. At the Novogorny station, the measured levels were 440 times higher. In mid-October Russian nuclear agency Rosatom denied that any of its facilities experienced any incidents - today, it again denied this. Officials at Mayak have said the dose of radiation is 20,000 times smaller than the "allowed annual dose," and therefore "poses no danger to human health and lives." In a statement released on Tuesday, environmental group Greenpeace demanded an in-depth inquiry "into potential concealment of a nuclear incident" and an investigation into public health risks. Mayak was the location of the Kyshtym disaster in 1957, which remains the third-most serious nuclear accident ever recorded.
A cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe in recent weeks indicates an unidentified nuclear incident happened at some facility in Russia or Kazakhstan in the last week of September, French nuclear safety institute IRSN said on Thursday. The IRSN ruled out an incident in a nuclear reactor, saying it was likely to be in a nuclear fuel treatment site or centre for radioactive medicine. 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 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, an IRSN official said. "Russian authorities have said they are not aware of an accident 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 spokeswoman for the Russian Emergencies Ministry said she could not immediately comment. It was not immediately possible to reach authorities in Kazakhstan or the Kazakh embassy in Moscow. Mr Peres said that in recent weeks IRSN and several other nuclear safety institutes in Europe had measured high levels of levels of ruthenium 106, a radioactive nuclide that is the product of splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor and which does not occur naturally. IRSN estimates that the quantity of ruthenium 106 released was major, between 100 and 300 teraBecquerels, and that if an incident 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. The ruthenium 106 was probably released in a nuclear fuel treatment site or centre for radioactive medicine, Mr Peres said. Because of its short half-life of about a year, ruthenium 106 is used in nuclear medicine.
Slovenia has become the latest European country where low levels of the radioactive isotope Ruthenium-106 have been detected in the atmosphere. The Nuclear Safety Administration said Monday the level was so low it did not pose a danger to health or the environment.
German officials say that a spike in radioactivity has been detected in the air in western and central Europe. Elevated levels of the isotope Ruthenium-106 have been reported in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France since September 29. The source of the Ruthenium-106 is still unknown, but calculations indicate it may have been released in eastern Europe. Experts from Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection (FORP) raised the alarm yesterday, after five Weather Service stations detected traces of the particle. This follows air monitoring stations across the continent recording an increase in the isotope. The levels detected are low, 17,000 times lower than the limit set for this particle, and do not pose a threat to human health as of yet. Officials added that the source could not be an accident at a nuclear power plant. In a written statement, a spokesman said: 'New analyses on the source of the radioactive substance ruthenium-106 suggest a release in eastern Europe, at a distance of more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from Germany. 'Since only ruthenium-106 has been detected, an accident in a nuclear power plant can be excluded as a cause. 'With this small amount of radioactivity there is no health hazard to the population.' Ruthenium is part of the platinum group of metals. Ruthenium-106 is an isotope, or variant with a different number of neutrons in its nucleus, used for radiation therapy to treat eye tumours. It is sometimes as a source of energy, known as radioisotope thermoelectric generators, used to power satellites.