The meteorological service of Russia has confirmed that “extremely high” levels of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) were detected in certain areas of the country in September. They deny that the increased concentration is the result of a nuclear accident.
On Nov. 9, French officials determined that radioactive cloud detected in Europe may have stemmed from an incident at a nuclear facility in the southeastern Urals region of Russia or Kazakhstan, Financial Times reports.
Rosgidromet, Russia’s meteorological organization, waited 11 days since to confirm the existence of the cloud, which they admit they detected in September. The delay in responding has made some suspect that Russia was attempting to cover up the incident.
One of the suspicious entities is Greenpeace, who said on Nov. 20 that they would be calling for an “in-depth inquiry” into “potential concealment of a nuclear incident.”
According to Radio Free Europe, a report by Rosgidromet says the highest levels of radioactivity were detected in late September and early October at the Argayash weather station in the Chelyabinsk region near the Urals. The levels of Ru-106 were reportedly 986 times higher than normal — an amount considered “extremely high contamination.”
The closest nuclear plant, Mayek, denies that it has anything to do with the nuclear spike. They say they haven’t made Ru-106 for years. A separate report detected an increase of 440 times higher than the month before. That data was collected at the Novogorny meteorological station in the same region of the Urals.
Rosgidromet later published another report retracting their statement that there had been “extremely high” levels of Ru-106, indicating in bold font that the amount detected was several times lower than permissible.
They blamed environmental protection groups for trying to “increase their importance in the eyes of society” during the time when “their budgets for the next year are being drafted.” They also said that the reason for the dramatic spike in background detection levels was that they usually detected nothing.
According to Financial Times, both Rosgidromet and France’s Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety denied that the isotope was a threat. A nuclear expert, Professor Paddy Reagan of the University of Surrey, also told The Guardian that the levels of Ru-106 weren’t dangerous.
The radiation will persist in the atmosphere for five or six years, but half of it will be gone by next year. It is unlikely to warrant an environmental cleanup operation.