Is the mysterious radioactive plume from Mayak -- and will we ever know?
November 25, 2017

In a November 24 column in Counterpunch, Beyond Nuclear's Linda Pentz Gunter reports on the radioactiveplume of ruthenium 106, detected in Europe and seemingly emanating from deep inside Russia, and possibly -- or even probably -- from the Mayak nuclear facility. But she postulates that a potential reason behind Russia's denial of an accident at that facility is because it is owned by Rosatom, the state nuclear corporation actively marketing itself around the globe. A nuclear disaster could put a serious dent in commerce. So perhaps the origins and consequences of this significant release are being suppressed, even from local residents and workers around the site who may not be getting the medical help they need and deserve. 

Here are the introductory paragraphs -- or read the full article.

September 29 marked the 60th anniversary of the world’s third most deadly— and least known — nuclear accident. It took place at the Mayak plutonium production facility, in a closed Soviet city in the Urals. The huge explosion was kept secret for decades. It spread hot particles over an area of more than 20,000 square miles, exposing a population of at least 270,000 and indefinitely contaminating land and rivers. Entire villages had to be bulldozed. Residents there have lived for decades with high rates of radiologically induced illnesses and birth defects.

Now, evidence is emerging of a potentially new nuclear accident and indications point once again to Mayak as one of the likely culprits. Ironically, if there was indeed an accident there, it happened on or around the precise anniversary of the 1957 disaster. The Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad in the region is another possible suspect.

The presence of the man-made radioactive isotope, ruthenium 106, was detected in the atmosphere in early October by a French nuclear safety institute and by a Danish monitoring station, but only recently confirmed by Russia’s meteorological agency. However, the Russian authorities continue to deny that the releases came from one of their nuclear facilities and the source of the release is yet to be identified.

And the release of ruthenium 106 is a massive one, indicating a major accident, not a minor leak. The French radiological institute for nuclear safety IRSN) calculated the release at 300 Terrabequerels. To put this in perspective, it is an amount equivalent to 375,000 times the annual release of ruthenium 106 authorized for a French nuclear power plant. 

Read the rest of the article at Counterpunch.

Article originally appeared on Beyond Nuclear (
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