The Russian nuclear conglomerate Rosatom has assured that „no incident or breakdown“ has been recorded on its facilities
Russia said on Tuesday that no incidents had affected its nuclear facilities despite the radioactive pollution detected at the end of September by its meteorological services, which confirm the reports of several European monitoring networks.
The announcement of the Russian nuclear conglomerate Rosatom, that „no incident or failure“ on its facilities had been registered, comes the day after the confirmation, by the Russian weather agency Rosguidromet, that „extremely high“ concentrations of ruthenium -106 had been detected at the end of September in the southern Urals.
Amongst the stations with the highest doses of ruthenium-106, a fission product from the nuclear industry is Arguaiach. Between September 26 and October 1, „an extremely high concentration (…) exceeding 986 times“ the rates recorded the previous month was detected there.
The Arguaiach station is located near the Mayak nuclear complex, hit in 1957 by one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, but it said in a statement that „radioactive pollution ruthenium-106 detected by Rosguidromet agency is not linked to its activities.
The complex, which today serves as a reprocessing site for spent nuclear fuel, adds that it has not „handled ruthenium-106“ in the course of 2017 and has not produced it for several years.
In 1957, in Maïak, a failure of the cooling system of a tank caused the rejection of liquid nuclear waste which had affected 260,000 people and required the evacuation of several localities.
Since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which had contaminated much of Europe, the West’s fears about the safety of Soviet and then Russian nuclear installations have never been removed.
Rosguidromet’s data are in line with the conclusions of the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), an independent body, which estimated at the beginning of November, after an investigation, that the radioactive pollution detected in Europe at the end of September had its origin “ between the Volga and the Urals „.
IRSN estimated that the source of the pollution could not come from a nuclear reactor, because other radioactive elements would have been detected, and made the „hypothesis of a rejection from a facility“ related to the cycle of the nuclear fuel or the manufacture of radioactive sources.
– Safe? –
By the beginning of October, IRSN and several European radioactivity monitoring networks had measured abnormal levels of ruthenium-106, an artificial element that does not exist in its natural state.
IRSN technicians near the simulator control panel during a nuclear safety exercise at the Civaux nuclear power plant, September 22, 2015
Despite rates detected in Europe below the alert thresholds and without consequences for health, the IRSN specified then that „the consequences of an accident of this magnitude in France would have required locally to implement measures of protection of the populations „.
In Russia, Maïak assures that the recorded doses are „20,000 times lower than the admissible annual dose and do not pose a risk to health“.
These findings were supported by several institutions including the Consumer Protection Agency, according to which „the maximum levels of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere were more than 200 times lower than the permissible level“.
The Ministry of the Environment has also questioned the „position of public organizations“ whose „incompetent estimates“ caused the dissemination of false information, implicitly Greenpeace who worried about the health consequences of this pollution.
The environmental organization has asked Rosatom to „conduct a thorough investigation and publish data on the events that have arrived in Mayak“, calling for an investigation into „the possible concealment of a nuclear incident“.
If the exact source of the pollution is not known, „it is obligatorily a terrestrial source, certainly of a plant of treatment of liquid effluents of a used fuel“, estimated Jean-Marc Peres, deputy director of IRSN, referring to „gas that escaped“. „This is the most likely hypothesis,“ he added.
A regional official suggested that the IRSN has accused Russia of helping to develop the French nuclear industry.
„The source of this information is France, where a competitor of our Maïak recycles nuclear waste.“ This is sobering, „said Evgeny Savchenko, Minister of Public Security of the Chelyabinsk region, at the site Ura.ru.
A challenge categorically refuted by the IRSN. The institute „has no interest in intervening in industrial interests,“ said Peres IRSN, questioned on this subject by AFP Tuesday evening, before adding: the institute has „submitted ( his calculations to a panel of foreign counterparts, of whom Russians „and“ none questioned „his methods of calculation.