A mysterious spike in radioactivity levels has been detected over northern Europe this month. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said Friday, June 26, 2020, that it may be from a source in western Russia, indicating damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant. However, state nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom denied the claims, stating that there have been no problems reported.
The subtle radiation increase is at levels considered harmless to humans but significant enough to be detected by radiation monitoring stations.
"Very low levels of the radioactive substances cesium-134, cesium-137, cobalt-60, and ruthenium-103 were measured," the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority reported last week.
"The levels measured are so low that they pose no danger to people or the environment," it added.
Other radiation protection authorities in Norway and Finland also made similar observations.
Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, posted a map outlining the possible source of the anomaly-- most of which was territory inside Russia, but also parts of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
Zerbo said the isotopes are most likely from a civil source, suggesting that it may be related to nuclear power production.
"We are able to indicate the likely region of the source, but it's outside the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization's (CTBTO) mandate to identify the exact origin."
Image credit: Lassina Zerbo
On June 26, RIVM announced that based on an examination of the available data, the combination of radionuclides may be from a source in western Russia and may "indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant," the Associated Press quoted.
However, Russian news agency TASS-- citing a spokesman with the Rosenergoatom-- said the two nuclear power plants in northwestern Russia have not reported any issues, "with radiation levels being within the norm."
The spokesman stated that the radiation levels at the Leningrad and Kola power stations and their surrounding areas "have remained unchanged in June, and no changes are also observed at present."
"Both stations are working in the normal regime. There have been no complaints about the equipment’s work," TASS quoted the unnamed official.
"Aggregated emissions of all specified isotopes in the above-mentioned period did not exceed the reference numbers. No incidents related to release of radionuclide outside containment structures have been reported."
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Featured image credit: Lassina Zerbo