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Mysterious radiation spike detected over Scandinavia

Sunset in winter landscape of Finland.
(Image: © Lars Thulin via Getty Images)

Radioactivity levels have spiked in the atmosphere over northern Europe, and that could indicate damage at a nuclear power plant in western Russia, according to a Dutch health agency that has analyzed the data. The radioactive spike suggests damage to a nuclear fuel element, the Associated Press reported.

However, the Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom has denied problems related to facilities in Kola and Leningrad, the two nuclear plants operating in the region, according to TASS, a Russian news agency, as reported by the AP.

Related: 5 weird things you didn't know about Chernobyl

Several Scandinavian watchdog agencies detected the elevated levels of the radionuclides (or radioactive isotopes). Radionuclides are atoms whose nuclei are unstable; the excess energy inside the nucleus gets released through radioactive decay. In particular, concentrations of the radionuclides cesium-134, cesium-137 and ruthenium-103 rose in parts of Finland, southern Scandinavia and the Arctic, Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, wrote on Twitter. Though these pose no harm to humans, they are byproducts of nuclear fission, Zerbo wrote. 

"The radionuclides are artificial, that is to say they are man-made. The composition of the nuclides may indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant," an official with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, which analyzed the isotope data, said on Friday (June 26).

Because so few measurements have been taken, monitoring agencies weren't able to identify a specific source, NIPHE officials said.

The sudden radioactivity spike echoes the events following the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the biggest nuclear disaster in history. Within a few days of the 1986 disaster, a Swedish nuclear power plant detected elevated radioactivity levels, according to an account from the European parliament.

In recent years, another radioactive mystery cloud wafting over Europe was tied to Russia. In 2017, a plume holding 1,000 times the normal levels of ruthenium-106 was detected over Europe, The Washington Post reported. Russia denied any involvement, though a nuclear reprocessing plant in Russia was a strong suspect, according to a 2019 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • DanP
    Chernobyl is not in Russia, but Ukraine, which were both in USSR at the time.
    Reply
  • texasdawn1
    No one is disputing where Chernobyl is located; not sure what you are trying to relay here??
    Reply
  • Hayseed
    They probably dropped another missile.
    Reply
  • DanP
    texasdawn1 said:
    No one is disputing where Chernobyl is located; not sure what you are trying to relay here??
    The article was wrong locating Chernobyl in Russia. It is located not far from Kiev, in Ukraine. Ukraine was in USSR at the time and as for many people USSR = Russia the confusion goes on.
    Reply
  • thenameisVal
    No where in the article does it state that Chernobyl is in Russia. They mention it in this article because Ukraine was under the control of Russia at the time of the Chernobyl Accident. And the Russian Government didn't admit that there was something wrong until they could not hide it anymore.
    Reply
  • rickv
    A number of months ago, there was a mysterious spike in radiation in the northern region of Russia and the local population were scrambling to get iodine. Nearby was a military research base and they said that there was an "accident" but later admitted that there was an explosion of an experimental missile.

    The rumor is that the Russians had been try to develop a nuclear powered missile or cruise missile and it blew up. I believe 4 of their scientists were killed in the explosion. The advantage of a nuclear powered cruise missile is that it effectively has unlimited loitering time so it can fly around indefinitely until it is deployed. Because it is already flying around near its target, the strike can be made very quickly; reducing defensive reaction time. I suspect the Russians are back at it.
    Reply
  • Lucille
    Ozone layer is being depleted, allowing the sun's rays to come on through to the earth.
    Reply
  • rickv
    Lucille said:
    Ozone layer is being depleted, allowing the sun's rays to come on through to the earth.
    Don't think the detected radiation is UV or other radiant energy from the sun. The released statement was "radioactivity", which means ionizing radiation; such as gamma radiation, alpha particles, beta particles, etc. This sounds like activity involving nuclear sources.
    Reply