Reports of slightly elevated radiation levels over Northern Europe were blamed on Moscow by Western media – accusations that appear to stem from a botched translation. The Kremlin says Russia has registered no nuclear incidents.
But in a statement, Russia’s nuclear energy body said its two power stations in the north-west – the Leningrad NPP and the Kola NPP – were working normally and that no leaks had been reported.
Russia denies rumours of any nuclear leak
“We have an absolutely advanced radiation levels safety monitoring system and there are no emergency alarms [that went off],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday responding to the allegations of a nuclear incident on Russian territory.
State nuclear energy agency Rosatom also said that all the readings reported by its monitoring systems remain within the normal range.
A slight increase in the levels of radioactivity over Northern Europe was detected by several monitoring stations in Finland, Sweden, and Norway in the first half of June. The spike was later acknowledged by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
22 /23 June 2020, RN #IMS station SEP63 #Sweden🇸🇪 detected 3isotopes; Cs-134, Cs-137 & Ru-103 associated w/Nuclear fission @ higher[ ] than usual levels (but not harmful for human health). The possible source region in the 72h preceding detection is shown in orange on the map. pic.twitter.com/ZeGsJa21TN
— Lassina Zerbo (@SinaZerbo) June 26, 2020
The CTBTO said the increase was not harmful to people. The organization’s executive director, Lassina Zerbo, tweeted that the isotopes “most likely” came from a “civil source.” The organization also shared a map of the area where the source of radiation might have been located. The marked area covers parts of Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
It did not take long for the blame game to begin, with Moscow seemingly being assigned its usual role of scapegoat.
Why did the rumour mill start churning?
The Dutch Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (NIPHE) said on Friday that the composition of the nuclear elements indicates an “incident involving a fuel element of a nuclear reactor.” The initial version of the report, published in Dutch, claimed that the radiation came “from the direction of Western Russia.”
The claim was swiftly picked up by Western media, with many outlets interpreting the report as all but certain proof that the mysterious nuclear “event” could be traced back to Russia.
When the media and internet were already rife with speculation, the NIPHE amended the original report. Blaming a “mistranslation” for the confusion, the Dutch researchers said it was impossible to determine the exact source of the radiation.
The now revised report (which has since been translated into English) states, rather vaguely, that based on “calculations,” they believe that “the arrival [of isotopes] at the measuring stations took place from a southeast direction.”
Russia denies that its nuclear power stations in NW of country were responsible for a mild leak of radiation detected in Scandinavia last week.
What if, on top of all the “Chernobyl moments”, there was actually a “Chernobyl moment”! https://t.co/4U7m5DV1xR pic.twitter.com/fnMa5CZXSR
— Adam Tooze (@adam_tooze) June 28, 2020
“The possible source location, therefore, covers a large area, and a more specific location for the source cannot be determined owing to the limited number of measurements,” it now reads.
Not Russia’s first nuclear lapse
Russia is yet to respond to a request for information from the UN nuclear watchdog after it was accused of being behind a radiation leak in Scandinavia. On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that 29 European countries had so far responded to a request for a situation report sent on Saturday — but not Russia.
While downplaying its report of the alleged Russian trace in the newest nuclear mystery, NIPHE could not resist patting itself on the back for being “able to locate the source more accurately” in a “similar situation” in 2017. Back then, a large increase in ruthenium-106 levels was detected in the air over several European countries.
Despite any actual proof, many were quick to blame Russia, claiming its Mayak nuclear facility, located in the Urals, was behind the leak. Russia was also accused of covering up an accident at a nuclear facility in Nyonoksa in August 2019. Moscow did not report any nuclear incidents at the time, suggesting instead that a derelict satellite that burned up in the atmosphere might have been behind the radioactive scare.
Russia has 36 nuclear power reactors in total, according to the IAEA.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk
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