There has been a spike in radioactivity coming from Russia’s Ural Mountains, it has been confirmed. It is suspected to come from a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, but the facility has denied it is the source.
A cloud of Ruthenium-106 was detected across 28 European countries between 27 September and 13 October, at trace levels.
Russia’s Meteorological Service has since said that it had recorded a release of Ruthenium-106 in the southern part of the range the divides Europe and Asia in late September.
It described the level would have resulted in an “extremely high contamination”. Russia’s state-controlled Rosatom corporation said in a statement that there had been no radiation leak from its Mayak plant.
France’s nuclear safety agency, The Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety. had worked out that the radiation most likely originated in the Urals but was spread at high levels across large areas of European Russia.
It said the release would have posed no health or environmental risks to people in European countries outside Russia.
But it added that food would have been contaminated at above maximum permitted levels of radiation for tens of kilometres from the point of origin.
The French report said: “The detection of Ruthenium-106 alone excludes the possibility of a release from a nuclear reactor which would result in the presence of other radionuclides. The origin of Ruthenium-106 is therefore to be found either in nuclear fuel cycle facilities or radioactive source production.”
Mayak has been responsible for at least two of Russia’s worst nuclear accidents.
In 2004, waste from the plant was dumped in the local Techa River.
In 2016, journalists from the Associated Press visited a village downriver from Mayak where doctors have recorded chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects and cancers at rates much higher than the Russian average.
The Russian Academy of Sciences’ Nuclear Safety Institute, which oversees safety standards, has insisted that Mayak’s nuclear waste processing system poses no danger to people living nearby
Greenpeace said it would petition the Russian Prosecutor General’s office to investigate “a possible concealment of a radiation accident” and check whether public health was sufficiently protected.
Ruthenium-106, which is sometimes created as a product of nuclear fission, is a stable radioactive isotope of Ruthenium, a naturally occurring metal related to platinum.