Russia says ruthenium-106 pollution could have come from satellite

Russia said Friday radioactive material detected over Europe in September possibly came from a burnt satellite in the atmosphere. File Photo by Zlikovec/Shutterstock/UPI

Dec. 9 (UPI) — Russian officials said Friday that radioactive substances detected over Europe weeks ago could have come from a satellite that burned up in the atmosphere.

Traces of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 were found in some European countries in September, including Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

The French Institute of Radioactive Protection said the material could have originated from a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan.

On Friday, Russian officials denied the source was a nuclear plant in the Ural mountains or at the Mayak facility, where the highest levels of the isotope were found.

“The substance was in the air — that’s a fact,” Rafael Harutyunyan, the Institute for Nuclear Power Development of the Russian Academy of Sciences deputy director, said. “But if the Mayak facility was the source, then around it and in the soil, we would have found concentrations hundreds of thousands of times the norm.”

Investigators instead suggested the pollution could be attributed to the satellite or its fragments.

Environmental organization Greenpeace, however, said it doubts the satellite possibility.

“As for satellites, we believe that this scenario is hardly probable,” Greenpeace coordinator Rashid Alimov said.

“If the commission comes to this conclusion, it should at least say what this satellite is. In principle, the fantastic version with the satellite was mentioned from the very first days but we have not received any information confirming this.”

Pollution from ruthenium-106 occurs when atoms are split in a reactor and can also be used in certain medical treatments.

Russian officials also said levels of ruthenium-106 have subsided to naturally occurring levels.


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