Mishandling of spent nuclear fuel in Russia may have caused radioactivity to spread across Europe. Now, scientists at the French Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Security (IRSN) in Paris say the isotope may have been released from the Mayak nuclear facility near Ozyorsk in southern Russia. IRSN argues that the leak could have taken place when Mayak technicians botched the fabrication of a highly radioactive component for a physics experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in L’Aquila, Italy. Princeton University physicist Frank von Hippel, a nonproliferation expert, says he doesn’t see “anything wrong with the IRSN analysis.” He notes that the amount of ruthenium-106 that the French team estimates was emitted—between 1 gram and 4 grams—matches the 30 grams of cerium-144 required for SOX, given that spent fuel contains the two isotopes in a ratio of about one to 14. And although the cloud over Europe was harmless, an accident at Mayak could mean that people living close by took in “potentially significant lung doses,” Von Hippel says.
Science 14th Feb 2018 read more »
Bellona 15th Feb 2018 read more »