Europe under grip of radioactive cloud?

The nuclear accident is assumed to have occurred last month, though it was ruled out to be a mishap in a nuclear reactor.

Specialists work inside Olkiluoto-3 nuclear reactor in Eurajoki
Representational picture Reuters

A cloud of radioactive pollution has appeared over Europe since the past few weeks, arousing speculations about its source. The French nuclear safety institute IRSN has said in a press release that the cause might be a nuclear accident in Russia or Kazakhstan.

The accident is assumed to have occurred in the last week of September, but it is not looking like a mishap in a nuclear reactor, said IRSN. It could have been a leak from a nuclear fuel treatment site or radioactive medicine center, said the agency.

The exact site of the accident has not been pinpointed yet, but the conditions point towards the south of the Ural mountains up to the Volga river. "Russian authorities have said they are not aware of an accident on their on their territory," Jean-Marc Peres, IRSN director, told Reuters. He added that the Kazakh authorities have not given any statement yet.

Peres also said that high levels of ruthenium 106, a radioactive nuclide, have been registered by several institutes recently, which cannot occur naturally. Measurements show that a major leak has taken place, between 100 and 300 teraBecquerels. If an accident of this magnitude had taken place in a populated city, large-scale evacuations would have been needed.

Although IRSN has said that the exact location and magnitude of the radioactive contamination is still undetectable, they have provided a map on their website, showing the most plausible zone of release.

IRSN map

The levels if ruthenium 106 have been steadily increasing since October 6, and it has now formed a huge cloud over Europe. However, authorities say that this development is 'harmless' to human beings and the environment as of now.

It also has very less chance of being carried to France through food items. Hence, a regulation on food import, especially mushrooms, have not been introduced yet.