Research finds radioactive substance in sediment under a Swiss lake used for drinking water

Research finds radioactive substance in sediment under a Swiss lake used for drinking water

Another striking radioactive story comes from Switzerland today. A radioactive substance cesium-137 was found in sediment under Lake Biel which is used for drinking water and is situated about 20 km, downstream Aare river, from the Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant. The Mühleberg plant, which came online in 1972, is 17 kilometers (11 miles) west of the Swiss capital Bern. Aare river is used to cool up the plant and it enters the Lake Biel.

Anti-nuclear groups are warning for long time that this nuclear power plant is not safe. Swiss Greenpeace also warned and questioned the safety of this power plant earlier this year and is calling for its closure for years.

And although scientist stressed there was no danger to human health, news of radioactive substance in sediment under the Lake Biel have now reached global awareness. It again raised concerns about safety practices and lack of transparency of not only Mühleberg, but other nuclear power plants throughout the world.

The findings come from a research done by geologists from Geneva University which was published in science journal Aquatic Science (their research is here). The findings were accidental as the research was about Aare floods. See also their conclusion and quotes of Achim Albrecht research from 1998.

Chemists in the northern canton of Basel recently verified the findings.

Politicians and environmentalists expressed outrage that the plant and nuclear inspectors had provided no information about the higher levels of cesium 137 released more than a decade ago into a lake that provides 68 percent of the drinking water to the nearby town of Biel, Le Matin, who first launched the story, reports. According to experts, it is certainly the Mühleberg, Le Matin writes.

SonntagsZeitung has some pretty interesting facts about the lack of proper measurements and missing data from 1998.

Greenpeace urged the public prosecutor in the canton of Bern, where Biel and the Mühleberg plant are located, to investigate.

After the request by an anti-nuclear group the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland ruled in March 2012 that BKW FMB Energy [the operator] should shut down the reactor by mid-2013. In its rulings the court cited the incomplete repair of cracks in the structures inside the reactor. Besides this the verdict mentioned the safety concerns related to the plant's earthquake resistance. WNN article from March 2013 says that the Mühleberg nuclear power plant could avoid shutdown this year and operate until 2022 under an initiative announced by the government of the Swiss canton of Bern.

Check this Wikipedia article for more information about the plant.

Featured image: Jose Manuel

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