Random and mysterious radioactive particles were found across Europe last week. Experts are still struggling to figure it out. This slight increase in radiation was detected by several trace measuring stations in Europe, including at least six in Germany.
The Ruthenium-106 isotope
Ruthenium-106 is an isotope used in medicine to treat tumors less than 7 millimeters in depth and eye cancers. It’s also used as energy in order to power satellites.
Levels of the radioactive isotope were found at elevated levels throughout Europe. Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France detected the isotope between September 29 and October 3. At least Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection claimed they did.
In Germany, ruthenium-106 was measured at values between a few microbequelel and 5 microbequelel per cubic meter of air. Elevated as that may be, it doesn’t pose a danger to public health.
So, how did the radioactive particles appear?
The cause of the radioactivity spike remains a bit of a mystery. However, a spokesperson from the office was able to confirm that it originated in Eastern Europe. While they haven’t been able to nail down the precise location, experts think it probably came from Russia’s Ural federal district. Officials haven’t ruled out other locations in Southern Russia as well.
They have, however, ruled out the possibility of a nuclear power plant accident as a possible cause. If this had been the case, ruthenium-106 wouldn’t be the only radioactive substance to be detected.
The iodine-131 incident
A similar incident happened in January and February this year, albeit with the radioactive substance iodine-131 instead of ruthenium-106. The French Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) reported spikes in levels of the isotope across Europe, from Spain to Finland. Again, its point of origin was pinpointed to Eastern Europe.
While there had been some terrifying rumors circulting that Russia had secretly tested a low-nuclear weapon in the Arctic, reality was far more mundane. Again, experts pointed out that had there been a nuclear test, control stations would have detected more than one type of radioactive chemical.
Thruth is, like ruthenium-106, iodine-131 is used for medical purposes. Thus, the increase most likely came from a drug company producing radioactive pharmaceuticals.