Russia is finally acknowledging the mysterious radioactive plume that spread across Europe recently, but says it was really nothing to worry about.
A few months ago, European scientists began openly worrying about a vast plume that seemed to be wafting out of Russia, but Russia maintained it had no idea what they were talking about.
On Tuesday, the Russian Meteorological Service finally acknowledged that it, too, registered the big radioactive cloud of an isotope called Ruthenium-106 back in September.
But the Russian nuclear facility located near the supposed center of the emissions, called Mayak, issued a testy statement asserting that it definitely, totally, wasn’t responsible — and that the amount of radiation we’re talking about here was harmless, anyway.
“The contamination of the atmosphere with Ruthenium-106 noted by the Russian Meteorological Service is in no way connected with the activity of Mayak,” the company said, adding that, in any case, possible exposure was “20,000 times less than the permissible annual dose that would present any danger to human health.”
Western scientists have said the pollution didn’t represent a major health threat, but they have puzzled over its source.
Not everyone was immediately convinced by Mayak’s latest denial.
Greenpeace announced it would send a letter to the central Russian prosecutor’s office seeking an investigation into a possible coverup of a “radiation accident” in the southern Urals — one it said would be consistent with the kinds of activities Mayak is known to be involved in.
“Mayak looks like a logical source for this release, but the data do not yet exclude also other possibilities, including in neighboring Kazakhstan,” Jan Haverkamp, a nuclear energy expert consultant working with Greenpeace, said in a statement.
The Russian Meteorological Service said Tuesday it recorded an “extremely high contamination” of Ruthenium-106 in the southern Ural mountains in late September, about 1,000 times the normal amount in one location. That concentration was near the Mayak facility, a former major nuclear weapons plant that now primarily reprocesses huge amounts of old nuclear fuel.
France’s nuclear safety agency had said earlier that the source of the radioactivity was likely coming from Russia’s south Urals or from nearby western Kazakhstan, a conclusion supported by Germany’s radiation protection agency.
Andrei Vazhenin, chief oncologist of Russia’s Chelyabinsk region, where the Ruthenium-106 cloud was observed, assured local residents they have nothing to fear.
Vaznenin told Russia’s Interfax news agency that anyone “seriously concerned” about the radioactive cloud should “watch soccer and drink beer.”