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Radiation level increase in northern Europe may ‘indicate damage’ to nuclear power plant in Russia

The Independent logo The Independent 27/06/2020 Tim Wyatt
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Low levels of radiation spotted in northern Europe may have come from a malfunctioning nuclear power plant in western Russia.

Nuclear safety officials from Finland, Norway and Sweden have all announced earlier this week they have detected increased radioactive isotopes across Scandinavia and in some Arctic regions.

While the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said on Tuesday it was not possible to confirm the source of radiation, Dutch authorities have analysed data from their Nordic neighbours and concluded it originated in western Russia.

“The radionuclides are artificial, that is to say they are man-made,” the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands said on Friday.

“The composition of the nuclides may indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant [but] a specific source location cannot be identified due to the limited number of measurements.”

However, the Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom has denied there are any problems with its two power plants in in the country’s northwest.

The Russian news agency Tass quoted an unnamed spokesperson from Rosenergoatom who said both a plant near St Petersburg and another near Murmansk were operating “normally, with radiation levels being within the norm”.

Radiation levels at the two plants had not changed for the whole month of June, the spokesperson added.

“Both stations are working in normal regime. There have been no complaints about the equipment’s work. No incidents related to release of radionuclide outside containment structures have been reported.”

The low levels and particular isotopes detected in Scandinavia are not harmful either to humans or the environment.

Other groups have also spotted the slight rise, however. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation said on Friday their radiation-monitoring sensors in Sweden had also detected a slight increase of several harmless isotopes in northwestern European airspace.

Russia is one of the largest producers of nuclear power in the world, with ten currently operational plants and several more under construction.

The country’s nuclear power operator has also signed billions of dollars-worth of contracts to build nuclear power plants using Russian technology in other countries, such as India, Turkey and Iran.

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