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Russia Detects 'Extremely High' Radiation After Mystery Pollution Spreads to Europe

Russia Detects 'Extremely High' Radiation After Mystery Pollution Spreads to Europeā€¯

A station close to the Mayak nuclear facility in the Chelyabinsk region detected "extremely high pollution" of the radioactive isotope Ru-106, Russian meteorologists said yesterday.

The level of ruthenium-106, a radioactive isotope that does not occur naturally, had reached 986 times the normal level of pollution at a monitoring station about 20 miles from the Mayak nuclear facility, where in 1957 an explosion exposed at least 272,000 people to unsafe levels of radiation.

Russian Federation today denied there had been an incident at any of its nuclear facilities after the country's weather service reported radioactive pollution that exceeded background levels by 986 times.

Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom had said that the release of the radioactive material, known as ruthenium 106, was natural background radiation, the RIA Novosti news wire reported at the time.

The French report said a nuclear reactor accident could not have been the source of the Ru-106 since other radioactive elements would also have been detected in the cloud. In mid-October, Rosatom announced that except in St. Petersburg, no trace of ruthenium-106 was found.

The incident has shades of the 1986 Chernobyl incident, when the then-Soviet Union was forced to admit a nuclear meltdown had occurred after radioactive material was detected by monitors in Europe.

Russia's meteorological agency, Rosgidromet, said pollution was of Ru-106 almost 1,000 times normal levels at the Argayash weather station in late September and early October.

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In a statement on Monday, Rosgidromet said the nuclear matter could eventually reach "all European countries starting in Italy and toward the north of Europe". The plant reprocesses nuclear fuel and manufactures components for nuclear arms.

It said that the source of the pollution was probably an accident somewhere between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains, adding that the concentrations measured in Europe were not a danger to public health.

The mysterious cloud was spotted in September and October and European reports blamed it on nuclear contamination from Russian Federation. It is also used in certain medical treatments. It has prompted demands by Greenpeace's Russian Federation branch for a more "in-depth inquiry".

"Greenpeace will send a letter asking prosecutors to open an inquiry into potential concealment of a nuclear incident", it said in a statement.

The exact source of the spike, however, remains unknown, though IRSN suggested that the cause might be an accident.

Nonetheless, the IRSN concluded that if the accidental release of this much ruthenium-106 had occurred on French soil, evacuations of the immediate area up to a few kilometres around the origin point would have taken place - so it's still a significant event that should have been treated with caution.

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