Russian Federation reports radioactivity 986 times above normal after claims of nuclear accident

SERGEI SUPINSKY  AFP  Getty Images

Moscow has conceded that the leak levels were 986 times the normal level, confirming earlier suspicion that pollution from a Russian nuclear plant could have caused the cloud formation.

Russia's meteorological service has confirmed there were "extremely high" concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 in several parts of the country in late September, Agence France-Press reported on November 20. It said the release of the isotope Ruthenium-106 posed no health or environmental risks to European countries.

Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom said the release of the radioactive material, Ruthenium 106 or Ru-106, was in line with natural background radiation, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported at the time.

The Russian meteorology agency did not point to any specific source of the pollution, AFP said. It was here that one of the worst nuclear disasters in history struck when more than 270,000 people were exposed to risky levels of radiation in 1957.

The data appears to support a report by the French nuclear safety institute IRSN, which said on November 9 a cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe had indicated that an accident had taken place at a nuclear facility either in Russian Federation or Kazakhstan in the last week of September.

Mayak makes components for nuclear weapons and processes spent nuclear fuel. It added the isotope was detected in Tatarstan and southern Russian Federation, eventually reaching "all European countries, starting in Italy and toward the north of Europe" from September 29.

France's nuclear safety agency earlier this month recorded radioactivity in the area between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains from a suspected accident involving nuclear fuel or the production of radioactive material.

"Probes of radioactive aerosols from monitoring stations Argayash and Novogorny were found to contain radioisotope Ru-106" between 25 September and 1 October, says Russia's Rosgidromet service.

Ruthenium-106 is a fission product from the nuclear industry, also used for medical treatments.

Greenpeace Russia on Monday called on Rosatom to open "an in-depth inquiry and publish the results about the incidents at Mayak", according to The Guardian. "Greenpeace will send a letter asking prosecutors to open an inquiry into [the] potential concealment of a nuclear incident", read a statement released by the Russian arm of Greenpeace.

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