A recent cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe indicates that an incident may have occurred at one of Russia's nuclear facilities, though according to officials, the material presents no harm to people or the environment.
The [Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute] IRSN on Thursday ruled out an accident 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, it said.
Though it could not determine the exact location, the IRSN concluded from weather patterns that the most likely zone is south of the Ural mountains.
“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.
Several nuclear safety organizations in Europe have detected high levels of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere, which is not naturally-occurring and only produced by splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor.
IRSN estimates a significant quantity of ruthenium-106 was released, between 100 and 300 terabecquerels, and that if an accident of this magnitude had happened in France it would have required the evacuation or sheltering of people in a radius of several kilometres around the accident site.
With no risk to human health or safety, the IRSN considers the matter closed for Europe and an issue for Russia to attend.
“We have come up with a plausible zone of where it could have come from; we can’t do any more. Russia is a vast country and we’re not aware of all the installations on its territory. The ball is now in the other camp.”