The extremely high levels of ruthenium–106 “poses no problems for health and the environment”, but we should remain cautious.
Before you say anything, there are no nuclear weapons involved…maybe.
“If it was a reactor leak or nuclear explosion, other radioisotopes would also be present in the ‘plume’ and from the reports, they are not,” said nuclear physicist Paddy Regan.
The radiation cloud was observed in late September by the Russian Meteorological Service, before which Russian authorities had said that they were not aware of any nuclear accidents on their turf, explaining “[n]one of the enterprises of the Russian nuclear industry has recorded radiation levels that exceed the norm”.
Russia’s Meteorological Service, Roshydromet, has now confirmed findings made by the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).
“The published data is not sufficient to establish the location of the pollution source,” Maxim Yakovenko, the head of Roshydromet, said in a statement to the New York Times.
While the cloud “poses no problems for health and the environment in Europe,” the director of health at IRSN, John-Christophe Gariel, told NPR that people living in the area would have to be evacuated if this happened in France.
Gariel also said, if this were to happen in France, there would be checks of agricultural products for contamination. There have been no reports of anyone being evacuated from the area French researchers pinpointed.
“Modeling suggests that any people within a few kilometres of the release, wherever it occurred, would have needed to seek shelter to protect themselves from possible radiation exposure,” he said.